DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Sunday will be single car qualifying to set the front row for next Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). While it’s nothing glamorous, it’s all about the teamwork back in North Carolina.
The drivers will tell you, qualifying at the Daytona International Speedway doesn’t have much to do about their skillset. It’s all about the teamwork in the offseason and engine department.
That’s why Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet in general have felt great about themselves at Daytona in February.
On Sunday (12 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) 40+ drivers will take to the high banks of Daytona in efforts to get themselves on the front row for next Sunday’s season opener. While there hasn’t been any on track activity yet, the ones to beat are the HMS camp.
HMS will look to win their sixth straight Daytona 500 pole, as Jeff Gordon started the streak in 2015 and William Byron kept it going last February. In the middle was Chase Elliott winning the pole in 2016 and again in 2017 and Alex Bowman in 2018.
Now, can Jimmie Johnson earn his third career Daytona 500 pole (2002, 2008)? Can Elliott earn his third (2016, 2017)? Can Byron go back-to-back (2018) and give the famed No. 24 Chevrolet its fifth Daytona 500 pole in the last six years?
If they can’t, don’t overlook the Chevy teams in general. Chevy, has won seven straight poles in the “Great American Race” and 12 of the last 14. The only two races since 2006 that they didn’t earn the Daytona 500 pole was in 2007 (David Gilliland) and 2012 (Carl Edwards).
Toyota, has never won a Daytona 500 pole.
Now, this potential pole though does come with a caveat. The last driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole was Dale Jarrett in 2000. The last pole winner to even nab a top five finish was Bill Elliott in 2002. The pole winner for the Daytona 500 has failed to score a top 10 finish in 15 of the last 18 years in fact. Their average finishing position?
Its not like the second starting spot is that much better. Their average finishing position in the big race? 16th too.
Just six times in the last 24 years has the second place starter came home with a top five finish in the Great American Race.
So, while the distinction of being a front row starter for the ‘500 is great an all, it hasn’t translated much into success a week later.