New team for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.? No problem. The former restrictor plate ace continued his strength Sunday (Feb. 9) at Daytona and Talladega while putting his car on the pole for the 2020 Daytona 500.
Stenhouse spent much of the session as much as a half-second faster than the rest of the field before some Hendrick Motorsports drivers challenged him down the stretch. Alex Bowman wound up second-quickest in his No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet, joining Stenhouse as locked in on next Sunday’s front row. But no one could catch JTG Daugherty Racing’s new hire as Stenhouse earned just the third pole of his Cup career. His speed of 194.582 mph edged Bowman’s 194.363, well short of the track record with NASCAR’s modern superspeedway package.
— JTG Daugherty Racing (@JTGRacing) February 9, 2020
Stenhouse has never won the Daytona 500 but captured the July race here in 2018. He’s seeking a fresh start at the No. 47 after just one top-five finish last season caused Roush Fenway Racing to wriggle their way out of his contract.
“I know that this is Daytona 500 qualifying,” Stenhouse said afterward. “It’s one lap. It’s one weekend. But I know that they’re putting the same effort into our Las Vegas car that we’re taking to Las Vegas as what they’ve been putting into our 500 car.
“I think this is just signs of things to come, of our speed that we’re going to have with our No. 47 team.”
As for Bowman, he starts on the outside of the front row a second straight year. While the near-miss ended a run of five straight poles for Hendrick Motorsports in the Great American Race, the 2018 pole sitter feels well positioned to make a run at Victory Lane himself.
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) February 9, 2020
Chase Elliott qualified third while Jimmie Johnson, running his final Daytona 500, qualified fourth fastest. But their starting spots may wind up much different as they’ll race for their official starting position in Thursday’s Daytona Duel qualifying races.
Two drivers among the seven open cars “locked in” to the 2020 Daytona 500 starting field based on their qualifying speed: Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan. Gaughan, also running his final Daytona 500, was surprised considering his No. 62 struggled based on what they had seen in practice.
— Luis Torres (@TheLTFiles) February 9, 2020
“Never knew when the last one was going to be,” Gaughan said after his qualifying effort. “We made it, we’re here, and we’re going to have a bitchin’ time.”