Chase Elliott Claims Daytona 500 Poleby Kyle Pokrefky February 14, 2016 0 comments
In what will be his first-ever race in the legendary No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green flag in next Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Completing a monstrous lap of 45.845 seconds, the driver of the NAPA Auto Parts machine became the youngest-ever pole winner for the Daytona 500.
“This is a very, very cool day,” Elliott said. “I don’t know that this opportunity has sunk in yet, much less sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500, so this is very cool.
“I think the big thing is just the team and the Daytona 500 qualifying is about the team guys and the effort they put into these cars and it’s nothing special I did, it’s really what kind of work they did this off-season to make it happen.
“This is very special and a great way to start the season.”
While the rest of the field will learn their final Daytona 500 qualifying position after Thursday’s Can-Am Duels, Elliott and second-place qualifier Matt Kenseth are both guaranteed their front row starting spots for next week unless they have to go to a backup car.
Following a Daytona 500 multi-car qualifying format that tore up multiple race cars in 2015, NASCAR switched this year’s format to two rounds of single-car qualifying.
Each driver was allowed one lap at speed with the top-12 drivers from the first round of qualifying transferring to the final round to duke it out for the pole.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the third-fastest driver in the final qualifying round, paced Q1 ahead of Kenseth yet came up just short in his bid for the pole.
The new charter system for the Sprint Cup Series also created its own share of drama in the first round of qualifying.
With 36 drivers locked in to the Daytona 500 by way of their charters for their respective teams, four spots are still up for grabs for the Great American Race with two spots being decided by way of qualifying on Sunday.
Being the two highest-qualifying non-charter drivers in Q1, Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto punched their tickets into the Daytona 500 with their respective Q1 lap times.
The Sprint Cup Series will return to on-track action at Daytona on Wednesday evening for two practice sessions.
Top-10 Qualifying Times for the Daytona 500 [Final lineup to be set on Thursday]
- 24 – Chase Elliott# – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports – 45.845 | Leader
- 20 – Matt Kenseth – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing – 45.910 | -0.065
- 88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports – 45.993 | -0.148
- 18 – Kyle Busch – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing – 46.105 | -0.260
- 17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ford – Roush Fenway Racing – 46.126 | -0.281
- 48 – Jimmie Johnson – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports – 46.192 | -0.347
- 21 – Ryan Blaney#* – Ford – Wood Brothers Racing – 46.214 | -0.369
- 3 – Austin Dillon – Chevrolet – Richard Childress Racing – 46.231 | -0.386
- 19 – Carl Edwards – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing – 46.234 | -0.389
- 11 – Denny Hamlin – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing – 46.267 | -0.422
# = Rookie, * = Non-charter driver.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images