For the second time in four attempts, Alex Bowman will start on the pole for the Daytona 500.
On a night when the lights went out at Daytona International Speedway and delayed time trials by 15 minutes, Bowman lived up to The Showman moniker. He bumped teammate William Byron off of the provisional pole with a lap of 191.261mph—.258-seconds faster than the No. 24 Chevrolet.
In six of the last seven years, Hendrick Motorsports has secured the top spot for the Great American Race. But for Bowman, this marks his first pole since taking over driving duties in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
“I’m just really proud of everybody; all our partners at Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said. “Thanks to Team Chevy for giving us great race cars. It feels really good. It’s awesome for Ally. I don’t know if they’ve gotten a pole yet. I figured they probably had a pole with Jimmie somewhere, but I don’t know. Man, it’s just awesome to be driving this No. 48 car.”
Johnson’s last pole for Ally came at Texas Motor Speedway on March 29, 2019. Chevrolet’s streak of pole-winning attempts dates back to 2013 with Danica Patrick. Despite winning his third-career Cup pole and starting on the front row for four consecutive 500s, Bowman was fairly humble about his accomplishment.
“It doesn’t really have a lot to do with me,” Bowman said. “It’s a testament to these guys and everybody back at the shop at Hendrick Motorsports. They work so hard on these superspeedway cars. They’re beautiful when they get to the race track. Our Ally Camaro has been really fast since we unloaded and they focused a lot on trying to get the pole for the Daytona 500. It means a lot to us and we were able to achieve that.”
Byron held onto second and will roll off alongside Bowman. The 23-year-old Charlottean won his first Cup race here at the 2.5-mile track last August. Although Hendrick has been dominant in Daytona qualifying, the last time the organization won the 500 was in 2014 with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It would be huge,” Bowman said of winning the Harley J. Earl trophy. “I mean, we've won other events here, and it would be huge, though, to win the Daytona 500 for any of the four of us.
I feel like even more so this year there's a concentrated effort on that and making sure we're helping each other and we've just gotten better and better at that over the year.
“The dialogue has continued to be open, and I feel like we're going to continue to try to move that forward and try to get one of us in Victory Lane. It's definitely our goal this year.”
Aric Almirola posted the third-fastest lap followed by Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez. The starting lineup for positions three through 40 will be determined by the Duel at Daytona qualifiers on Thursday.
Wallace was satisfied by the effort of the 23XI Racing team in their maiden voyage at Daytona.
“Everything is shaping up to be a great ending for us, we just need to get through it," Wallace said. "This is the same feeling I had in 2018 for my first 500. The speed was there. We qualified decent and had a really good Duel and then finished second in the 500. I think the way things are going, we just need to keep it going. Keep the positive momentum going. Everything is kind of clicking and I feel really good in the car and confident. Still getting things worked out, but all in all, it comes pretty natural when you have a great team behind you.”
Six drivers entered the race without guaranteed spots in the race. Both Preece and David Ragan, who qualified 13th, both locked themselves into the field for the 63rd running of the Daytona 500.
“I knew we would have speed in our No. 37 Cottonelle Chevrolet, but I am really proud of the effort that everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing organization put in to get our car as fast as it is and qualify on speed into the Daytona 500,” Preece. “We ran some solid laps in practice today and I think that prepared me for tonight and to put down one solid lap to qualify us into the race on Sunday.
“We’re also racing in the same duel as our teammate, and it’ll be good to practice drafting with them tomorrow night. This is the best start to Speedweeks and the 2021 season that we could think of and I’m looking forward to a strong night tomorrow and a stronger race on Sunday.”
Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Ty Dillon, Garrett Smithley and Noah Gragson will compete for two positions in their respective Duels. Gragson, who is attempting to qualify for his first Cup race in the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet, never made a qualifying run on Tuesday after the team failed inspection three times. The team has also lost a crew member for the remainder of the weekend.