Bowman, Byron give Hendrick sweep of Daytona 500 front row
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hendrick Motorsports once again dominated Daytona 500 qualifying with a sweep of the front row for its 14th pole and sixth in the last seven years.
Alex Bowman posted a lap at 191.261 mph Wednesday night at Daytona International Speedway to earn the top starting spot for the second time in his career. It's the fourth consecutive year Bowman will start from the front row.
“It doesn’t really have a lot to do with me – it’s a testament to these guys and everybody back at the shop at Hendrick Motorsports," Bowman said. “They work so hard on these superspeedway cars. They’re beautiful when they get to the race track.”
William Byron made it a Hendrick sweep with a lap at 190.219 mph. Only the front row was set Wednesday night, the first time Daytona 500 qualifying has been held at night under a condensed Speedweeks schedule.
It's the ninth consecutive year Chevrolet won the pole.
The 40-car field is determined through both the time trials and a pair of Thursday night qualifying races. NASCAR sold 36 charters that guarantee the owners slots in the field, which leaves eight drivers vying for four “open” spots in the Super Bowl of stock-car racing.
But two spots are earmarked to the fastest “open” cars in Wednesday night time trials. David Ragan and Ryan Preece earned the two berths.
Preece had a charter last year with JTG-Daugherty Racing, but the team no longer holds its rights and there’s concern the car won’t attempt to make every race if it doesn’t have early success.
Preece said he wasn't nervous before attempting his lap, but did panic when the qualifying session was delayed for a power issue and Preece noticed he was wearing the wrong firesuit. Preece said he ran half-a-mile before his qualifying lap to change his firesuit.
Derrike Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner and oldest driver in the field at 62, could not get his car started and did not make a qualifying lap. His car is locked into the race, though, because it has a charter.
The No. 62 failed pre-qualifying inspection three times, did not get to attempt a qualifying lap, and lost a crew member.
Noah Gragson also did not make a qualifying lap because his car failed pre-race inspection. Beard Motorsports has to forfeit a team member as penalty but Gragson can race Thursday night and attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500.
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