NASCAR Cup: Chase Elliott claims second-straight Daytona 500 pole
Chase Elliott (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
Chase Elliott claimed his second-straight Daytona 500 pole on Sunday with a 192.872 mph lap in the second of two rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. It also was the third-straight Daytona 500 pole for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 team and crew chief Alan Gustafson. It just so happens, the last crew chief to claim three-straight Daytona 500 poles was Elliott’s uncle, Ernie Elliott.
“This is really cool,” Elliott said. “I’m just happy for our NAPA team, and it’s great to have NAPA onboard this weekend. And a big thanks to the Hendrick engine shop and Chevrolet. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has done a lot of work this off-season. This team definitely has a knack for these plate tracks, as they showed with Jeff Gordon and then, last year with here and Talladega. But that stuff doesn’t just happen by staying the same, as everybody knows. Everyone is always trying to get better and make their cars better and faster. And the engine shop is always finding new things, so I think that’s just proof that they’re improving with everybody else and taking that next step, which is really impressive. I’m happy to be a part of it and, hopefully, we can run good next Sunday.”
Hendrick Motorsports swept the front row in qualifying, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. taking the second spot on the starting grid, scheduled for Feb. 26. This year’s Daytona 500 will be Earnhardt’s first race since Kentucky Speedway last July.
“It feels good,” Earnhardt said. “I think the guys are a little bit disappointed. They really wanted to get the pole. I’m disappointed, too, but am absolutely thrilled to have an all-Hendrick Motorsports front row. And we’ll work on the balance, practice a lot this week, and make sure it’s a good handling car for the race. But it’s a good way to start the week.”
Elliott and Earnhardt also posted the two fastest laps in the first round of qualifying.
The two HMS teammates are the only two drivers who know their exact starting positions for the Daytona 500. The other 40 drivers will have to wait until the completion of two Can-Am Duel races Thursday night to learn their starting positions. Two drivers will learn they won’t make the Daytona 500.
Aside for the 36 drivers guaranteed starting spots by virtue of driving for chartered teams, open drivers Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan also know they’ll be able to race in the 500 by virtue of being the two fastest among the six drivers racing for open teams. They just don’t know exactly where they’ll end up on the Daytona 500 starting grid.
Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer were third and fourth in Sunday’s qualifying session, and as a result, Keselowski will start next to Elliott on the front row for the first Can-Am Duel, while Bowyer will line-up next to Earnhardt on the front row for the second Duel.