NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Chase Elliott Wins Pole for First Daytona 500

If you love numbers, not much has changed since Feb. 2015 as the No. 24 car led the field to green for the 2015 Daytona 500.

That was Jeff Gordon.

This time, it is Chase Elliott aboard the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as the 2016 Rookie of the Year competitor grabbed the pole at Daytona International Speedway, ripping around the circuit in 45.845 seconds (196.31 mph).

“This is a very, very cool day,” Elliott said. “I don’t know if this opportunity has sunken in yet, much less, sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500.”

Qualifying for what will be the 20-year-old’s first Daytona 500 and sixth Sprint Cup Series start, Elliott becomes the 14th consecutive different pole winner for the 500-mile classic. He is also the third rookie in four years to win the pole for the Great American Race, following in the footsteps of Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon.

“I think the big thing is just the team,” Elliott continued. “Daytona 500 qualifying is about the team guys and the effort they put in to these cars. It’s nothing special I did, it’s really what kind of work they did this offseason to make it happen.”

With no prior restrictor plate experience in Sprint Cup competition, Elliott took notes during Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited.

“I think, from here, I think it started last night paying attention to that Sprint Unlimited,” he said. “Kind of watching to see what went on there, trying to learn a couple things. The Duels, I think, will be a big eye-opener for me to try and learn this Cup side a little bit on the drafting.”

Matt Kenseth was the only other driver to reach the 45-second mark, running just 0.065 seconds behind Elliott and qualifying second. The front-row effort was the first in Kenseth’s Daytona 500 career. The 2012 Daytona 500 winner became the first Toyota driver since Michael Waltrip in 2008 to sit on the front row for the season-opener.

“It is the first time I’ve been nervous qualifying at Daytona,” Kenseth admitted. “I’m like ‘Don’t mess up that lap, you want to be on the front row.’ Just a big thanks to everyone at JGR.”

Unlike last year, Pole Day at Daytona reverted back to single-car runs with the importance of a quick, fine-tuned car at the forefront. The driver focuses on holding a smooth wheel while the teams enjoy their time in the limelight.

“The aero department is obviously a huge part of all this,” Kenseth said. “Everybody at Toyota and TRD making these Camrys so fast.”

With the top 12 advancing to the second and final round for pole, Casey Mears was the driver bumped out after reigning Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano ran a lap 0.001 seconds quicker during the last run.

“I guess if we’re going to be anything, 13th is not a bad number for us,” said Mears, driver of the No. 13 Chevrolet. “I’m real proud of the guys. Obviously, everybody here in the whole NASCAR group puts a lot of work into this, coming to this race and showing speed.”

Martin Truex, Jr. was unable to post a lap when NASCAR put the Furniture Row Racing team on the five-minute clock after finding a roof flap that was sticking out of place.

“[NASCAR] didn’t like the way [the roof flap] landed when it dropped back down,” said Cole Pearn, crew chief of the No. 78. “It was that way the whole way down pit road. I’m not sure what the problem was, it could have been easily fixed. We’ll roll on and see what they decide to do.”

Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto were the two drivers without Charters to lock themselves into the field. The two drivers out-qualified the remaining teams without Charters, which means two starting positions will be on the line come Thursday.

The Sprint Cup Series field now will get set for the Can-Am Duels on Thursday night to officially set the field for the 58th Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Starting fields for the Can-Am Duels:

Can-Am Duel No. 1

1. Chase Elliott

2.Dale Earnhardt Jr.

3.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

4.Ryan Blaney

5.Austin Dillon

6.Denny Hamlin

7.Joey Logano

8.Kasey Kahne

9.Kevin Harvick

10.Ty Dillon

11.Aric Almirola

12.Greg Biffle

13.Brian Scott

14.Michael McDowell

15.Regan Smith

16.Chris Buescher

17.Bobby Labonte

18.Trevor Bayne

19.Clint Bowyer

20.Cole Whitt

21.David Ragan

22.Josh Wise

 

Can-Am Duel No. 2

1.Matt Kenseth

2.Kyle Busch

3.Jimmie Johnson

4.Carl Edwards

5.Kurt Busch

6.Casey Mears

7.Ryan Newman

8.Paul Menard

9.Brad Keselowski

10.Brian Vickers

11.Jamie McMurray

12.Kyle Larson

13.Matt DiBenedetto

14.Michael Waltrip

15.Danica Patrick

16.AJ Allmendinger

17.Michael Annett

18.Landon Cassill

19.Robert Richardson Jr.

20.David Gilliland

21.Reed Sorenson

22.Martin Truex Jr.

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kb

What a shocker, not. Stevie Wonder saw this one coming. WWE. NASCAR is absolutely shameless and think most fans are stupid.

DoninAjax

Do you think Jr. backed off to let Chase get the pole too? Only thing is he wound up third.

We’ve seen this movie before and can tell how it goes from here. Brian has no shame in his admiration of Vince McMahon.

Stewart’s luck is rubbing off on his replacement.

kb

Hard to say, but anybody who follows the sport knew this was going to happen, and it wasn’t because he was that good. My family and I were saying that Brian is a admirer of PT BARNUM, the greatest showman of all time. Brian looks at his picture in his office for inspiration, to fool and deceive the gullible public.

DoninAjax

Brian can talk to Vince. He can’t talk to PT. Vince has taken it to a whole new level and Brian wants in.

I noticed that the prize money for the races won’t be shown now because of the charter system. Makes one wonder what they have to hide. So much for helping the “little teams.” More money for Brian to count in his vault.

rg72

There is a lot to hide. They stopped releasing attendance figures a couple years back, in the name of not trying to provide earnings guidance for ISC and SMI. And now this is name of the charter system. The re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic continues.

Tim Walgren

Kaufman decides HScott gets charter, Woods brothers don’t. Nice

rg72

Since Smoke is laid up, apparently this by default became the next most compelling story line to play up for the next week.

kb

Exactly, this was predicted, especially with Tony hurt. Lol.

Joe

Will Nathan Kilmer be writeing for frontstretch this year?

DoninAjax

I noticed Saturday night that the Toyota Camry is the pace car again. It really does bear a striking resemblance to the Toyota “race” cars. NOT!! At the last race the pace car was a Shelby GT350. It’s not quite a Shelby GT500KR but it’s closer to a real race car than Brian’s version. And I’ll bet the Bullitt version for Steve McQueen’s son is too. Money talks to Brian.

Chris

Wow! Chase won the pole?!? I did_not_see that coming! Talk about a dark horse pick!

Brian in PDX

I know, right!?! What a magical world we live in ;-)

Bob

And the tin foil hat brigade is back in full force. As well as all those fans who swore never to watch again!

kb

Bobby, what is so “tin foil hat” about the obviousi? Do you see the predictions (that come true) for any other RP race? No you don’t. People have to be asleep or very trusting to believe that this was just done by his magical hard work. (Chase or the last 3 drivers). It isn’t and obvious. The 500 is a big show to the world, this sport puts it’s biggest day first, not last. This gives them media mileage and exposure for a whole week NASCAR normally doesn’t get. The week before and the few days after the Daytona 500, gets the most mileage in the non auto sport media, unless of course something bad happens during a race, or a scandal regarding a driver. Think about it. Just check the headlines before the quals that NASCAR is pushing, and presto..you got your pole winner. Not a dig on the driver, just the silliness of NASCAR.

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