Alex Bowman and William Byron swept the front row Wednesday night in qualifying for the Daytona 500, giving Hendrick its 14th pole and sixth in the last seven years. Rick Hendrick’s engine-building wing has seven straight poles because it powers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., last year’s pole-winner.
Bowman posted a lap at 191.261 mph 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, but he’s got a completely new look this time.
Bowman in the offseason was moved from the No. 88 into the No. 48 vacated by seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. He inherited sponsor Ally, which has committed to backing Bowman and helping him develop his brand.
Bowman drove his Chevrolet more than 1 mph faster than teammate Byron, who qualified second with a lap at 190.219 mph. Only the front row was set Wednesday, 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 time trials and a pair of Thursday night qualifying races. NASCAR sold 36 charters that guarantee those owners slots in the field, which leaves eight drivers vying for four “open” spots in the Super Bowl of stock-car racing.
Two spots were earmarked to the fastest “open” cars in time trials. David Ragan and Ryan Preece earned those berths.
The No. 62 driven by Noah Gragson for Beard Motorsport failed pre-qualifying inspection three times, did not get to attempt a qualifying lap, and lost a crew member.
Beard has to forfeit a team member as a penalty, but Gragson can race Thursday night and attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500.
Bubba Wallace, fastest in Wednesday afternoon’s practice, briefly sat on the pole in his new 23XI Racing entry owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. Byron bumped him first, then Bowman topped Byron. Wallace wound up fourth on his first day in his new car.
Hamlin, who is trying to become the first driver to win three consecutive Daytona 500s, was 12th. He said it was emotional to see the team he helped build get its car on track.