Hendrick Motorsports continued their wave of momentum on Wednesday night by sweeping the front row for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Alex Bowman was fastest in single-car qualifying at 191.261 mph, earning his second Daytona 500 pole and the third of his Cup career. Bowman is also the first driver in NASCAR history to start on the front row for the Daytona 500 in four consecutive years.
Joining Bowman at the front of the field is William Byron, who earned pole position for the Great American Race in 2019. As a team, Hendrick Motorsports has won pole position for this race in five of the last six years. This is the 14th time they have earned the pole for the Daytona 500. All of this comes on the heels of their championship last season with Chase Elliott.
Bowman and Byron are locked into their starting spots for Sunday afternoon, but they aren’t the only ones in the field. Ryan Preece and David Ragan locked themselves into the field by being the two fastest drivers of the open teams. There are six other drivers without a charter that will race for the two remaining spots in the Daytona 500 tomorrow night in the two Duel races.
Silly Season is always entertaining and this offseason was no exception. Several drivers changed teams, new teams were created, the rookie class is oozing with talent, and one driver is making his return to the series with one of the top teams. Kyle Larson made just four starts last season before his suspension. After being reinstated for the 2021 season, Larson was offered a seat at Hendrick Motorsports. With Jimmie Johnson’s retirement, Rick Hendrick had a seat to fill, and the two sides reached an agreement, putting Larson in the No. 5 Chevrolet this season.
Joe Gibbs Racing will have three of their four drivers returning, with Christopher Bell moving into the No. 20 Toyota. Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan created a new team (23XI Racing) and will have Bubba Wallace behind the wheel of the No. 23 Toyota. After losing his JGR ride, Erik Jones made the move to the No. 43 with Richard Petty Motorsports to replace Wallace. Chip Ganassi filled the vacant No. 42 Chevrolet with fan-favorite Ross Chastain.
The top rookie this season should be a familiar name to many race fans. Chase Briscoe steps into the No. 14 Ford with Stewart-Haas Racing after Clint Bowyer’s retirement. Daniel Suarez, Anthony Alfredo, BJ McLeod, Corey LaJoie, Cody Ware, and Josh Bilicki also all found new homes for this season. Bowman changed numbers and is now driving the No. 48 car, which will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday afternoon.
Kyle Busch kicked things off on Tuesday by winning the 43rd annual Busch Clash at Daytona in a thrilling finish with Elliott and Ryan Blaney tangled on the final lap coming to the checkered flag. This was the first time ever that the Daytona road course was used instead of the 2.5-mile oval. With the front row for Sunday’s big race now locked in, the only thing left to do is to set the rest of the starting field. That work will be done tomorrow at 7 PM ET on FS1 with the two Duel qualifying races. There are 44 cars on the entry list, which means four of them will not qualify for the Great American Race.
The 63rd Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday at 2:30 PM on FOX.
Photos courtesy of NASCAR