Alex Bowman wins the pole for Sunday’s 65th annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN), my top takeaways from Wednesday night

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The record is all his. Alex Bowman, the last qualifier in the second and final round, topped his teammate of Kyle Larson (181.057 mph) to score not only his sixth consecutive front row starting spot for the Great American Race, but also scored his fourth career pole in the process.

Bowman went 181.686 mph in his No. 48 Chevrolet and notched his third Daytona 500 pole in the process. That’s right, out of his four career NASCAR Cup Series poles, three of which are for this race.

“Yeah, for me it’s a really interesting thing to be a part of because I have so little to do with it, right?” Bowman admitted. “Like obviously once you get five, man, it would be really cool to have six. Next year I’ll be like, Man, it will be really cool to have seven.

“At the same time it’s way more about my guys and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. Just appreciative for all their hard work, the time and effort, whether it’s the engine shop or all the guys in the car shop. There’s a ton of effort that goes into trying to qualify well here. Most of it’s on their end. So definitely really appreciative.

“I don’t really feel like I tried to do anything different than the other guys. Just try to kind of let the race car go where it wants and not bind it up.

“As a driver, really all you can do is get the best launch you can, hit your shift points right, try to run the best you can, not mess it up.

“Yeah, glad I didn’t mess it up. I was kind of just letting the race car go where it wanted to.

“It’s really good to see it here. Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t get old by any means. It’s so special to be a part of. Just really thankful for the opportunity. Definitely want more.”

He’ll go down in lore as one of the best qualifiers ever at Daytona with these feats. Not only has he been so dominant, Bowman is doing so with a new crew chief in Blake Harris.

It’s one thing to do so with Greg Ives, but Harris wasn’t even in this building last year. In fact, prior to this winter, he’s never stepped foot in HMS. Bowman, still won the pole anyways and looked no different now than he did prior.

“I’m just so proud of Hendrick Motorsports engine shop, all the guys,” Bowman said. This Ally 48 Camaro is obviously really fast. I don’t really have a lot to do with qualifying here, so just fortunate to qualify some really fast race cars.

Larson will start second for the second straight year making an all Hendrick front row for the third consecutive year here and 6th time in the last 8 years. They also swept the front row in last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 as well, granted that race was determined by points.

 “I don’t know. I think it’s just because he’s taller, he can push the gas further (laughter),” Larson joked on Bowman beating him for the pole.

“No, I don’t know, just hats off to their team. We were able to edge them out last year. I don’t remember what lap times were last year, but they clobbered us all this year.

“Hats off to the 48 team and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports because everybody has a hand in all of our cars going as fast as they do in qualifying here.”

William Byron (180.727 mph) gave it an all HMS 1-2-3 capping a great night for Chevrolet.

The bowties have now won 11 straight Daytona 500 poles and 16 of the last 19. They’ve also won 31 total Daytona 500 poles besting Ford by 17 total poles with the blue ovals scoring 12 poles in the Great American Race, the last being in 2012.

The only two races since 2006 that a Chevy driver didn’t earn the Daytona 500 pole was in 2007 (David Gilliland) and 2012 (Carl Edwards).

Toyota, has never won a Daytona 500 pole.

On top of that, HMS has actually won five straight poles in general at Daytona and 13 in the last 17 tries on the high banked 2.5-mile Florida superspeedway. The only 4 poles that they didn’t win was Greg Biffle (July 2016), Joey Logano (July 2019), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (February 2020) and Kevin Harvick (Aug. 2020). However, 2 of the 4 weren’t won on speed. Logano’s pole in 2019 was on points. Same for Harvick in 2020 as we didn’t qualify that year.

“Yeah, I don’t know. I’m new, pretty new, to Hendrick still. I don’t obviously get involved in car stuff.

“Yeah, they’ve got something figured out for sure,” said Larson. “I mean, there’s other teams outside of Hendrick Motorsports that use Hendrick engines. The cars are more similar these days, where they’re not kind of hand-built in the shop.

“There’s obviously tricks and stuff that they’ve learned along the way that still apply to I’m assuming these cars. It’s pretty neat. It’s pretty cool to see the success that they’ve had on qualifying day.

“Rick gets really excited about that. I know he’d be even more excited if one of the four of us could end up in Victory Lane on Sunday.”

In saying that, they failed to win with having just 1 win in the last 13 Daytona races now. Elliott led the most laps (31) last August, but none of them even scored a top 10 that day.

Can they turn their fortunes around on Sunday?

Jeff Gordon said that they elected to go for more race pace on Sunday and not necessarily for the pole. Still, it didn’t matter. HMS showed up on go fast day.

” I don’t know, I mean, you always study before every race,” Larson said of studying tape between now and Sunday and trying to figure out how to be better here on race day. “I don’t know. We do it every week. We go over every race. Same as for Daytona and Talladega both, we go and try to probably dive deeper than normal. More of the same tomorrow.

“But I would like to kind of see how the good guys set themselves up throughout a run to be up towards the front or wherever they need to be to miss wrecks and stuff.

“It’s just a difficult style of racing that, I don’t know, I just haven’t had the best of time in my career. I used to always say it’s bad luck, but I don’t necessarily feel that way any more.

“Yeah, just try to, as you do with every racetrack, just get better.”

Aric Almirola (180.723 mph) was the best in the next class while defending series champion, Joey Logano (180.712 mph) rounded out the top five.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Daytona 500 Front Row Hasn’t Had Much Daytona 500 Race Success

Now, this potential pole on Wednesday night though does come with a caveat for Alex Bowman. 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 17 of the last 22 years in fact including eight straight races. Their average finishing position?

16.59. The last five pole winners have failed to even get to 16th in the end with the best result since 2015 being 14th by Elliott in 2017.

It’s also not like the second starting spot is that much better. Their average finishing position in the big race? 16.27.

Just five times in the last 27 years has the second-place starter came home with a top five finish in the Great American Race. Not great news for Kyle Larson either.

The last outside pole winner to win the Daytona 500?

Dale Jarrett in 1993.

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.

Ford’s Showed Might

NASCAR allowed all three manufacturers to make some updates to their cars between last year and this. In wake of that, the consensus in the garage was that the Ford’s were going to be tough to beat on this superspeedway package. They flexed their Ford power on Wednesday in taking 6 of the 10 spots into the final round.

All three Team Penske cars advanced, as did their alliance car at the Wood Brothers.

I had Team Penske in my fades because they’ve not been strong in qualifying on superspeedway’s lately. Joey Logano (+1300) was 12th, 13th and 11th respectively last year on them. He’s never had a front row starting spot for the Daytona 500. Ryan Blaney (+1400) was 13th, 22nd and 19th. He too has never started on the front row for the Daytona 500. Austin Cindric (+1800) 21st, 18th and 17th respectively.

On Wednesday night, they ended up 5th (Logano), 7th (Blaney) and 8th (Cindric)

Aric Almirola was 4th fastest while Harrison Burton was 9th.

Where Were The Toyota’s?

Chevy and Ford were well represented in the final round. That’s because the Toyota camp was absent. Bubba Wallace was the closest in being one spot shy (11th overall). Next best was rookie Ty Gibbs in 19th. Wallace’s 23XI Racing teammate of Tyler Reddick was one spot behind Gibbs in 20th.

Christopher Bell, who swept both Talladega poles a year ago was 21st on Wednesday night. His teammate Martin Truex Jr. was 21st. The fourth JGR car in three-time Daytona 500 champion, Denny Hamlin, was slowest among the Camry’s in 26th.

The best story among them though was Travis Pastrana who may have only been 25th on the speed charts, but was second quickest among the open cars and clinches a spot into the Daytona 500.

That’s their high point of the night.

Speeds Still Down

We wondered last year with this new car, what the qualifying speeds would actually look like. Well, we found out in qualifying, most would struggle to not only get out of the 180-mph bracket, they’d struggle to actually get into it.

Larson’s pole speed of 181.159 mph was the slowest pole speed for the Great American Race since Curtis Turner’s of 180.831 mph back in 1967. Yes, this was the slowest pole speed in 55 years.

On Wednesday night, Bowman went 181.686 mph.

AJ Foyt went 182.744 mph in 1971. Bill Elliott was 183.565 mph in 2001. Those were the only other two instances that the pole speeds dipped below 185 mph in this 56 year span.

In fact, this is the 11th slowest pole speed ever. That’s saying something when you debut a new Next Gen car that the speeds have gone way back. Granted, you don’t need to have high speeds to put on a good show, but it’s noteworthy.

The streak of 10 straight years of the pole speed for the Daytona 500 being at or above the 190 mph bracket has been broken. In fact, 11 of the last 12 pole speeds prior to last year’s Speedweeks were over 190 mph at that.

Jeff Gordon went 201.293 mph in 2015 for the only time 1987 that the pole speed broke the 200 mph barrier. In 2021, it was just the second time in the last decade that the pole speed failed to hit 194 mph. Chase Elliott (192.872 mph) in 2017 was the other.

Alex Bowman went 191.261 mph in his 2021 pole winning run. That was over 3 mph slower than what Ricky Stenhouse went 194.582 mph a year prior. William Byron went 194.305 mph in the final year of the restrictor plate in 2019. Alex Bowman was at 195.644 mph a year prior to that in 2018.

Prior to 2010 though, the pole speeds didn’t get out of the 180’s for nine straight years but none were as slow as this.

From 2015 until now, the pole speed has dropped 20 mph.

Daytona 500 Qualifying Results

  1. Alex Bowman 49.536
  2. Kyle Larson 49.708
  3. William Byron 49.799
  4. Aric Almirola 49.800
  5. Joey Logano 49.803
  6. Chase Briscoe 49.817
  7. Ryan Blaney 49.985
  8. Austin Cindric 49.996
  9. Harrison Burton 50.070
  10. Kyle Busch No Time
  11. Bubba Wallace 49.997
  12. Daniel Suarez 50.022
  13. Chris Buescher 50.031
  14. Chase Elliott 50.033
  15. Ross Chastain 50.038
  16. Ryan Preece 50.042
  17. Kevin Harvick 50.088
  18. Brad Keselowski 50.091
  19. Ty Gibbs R 50.107
  20. Tyler Reddick 50.108
  21. Christopher Bell 50.140
  22. Martin Truex Jr. 50.182
  23. Jimmie Johnson 50.202
  24. Michael McDowell 50.205
  25. Travis Pastrana R 50.208
  26. Denny Hamlin 50.236
  27. Erik Jones 50.280
  28. Noah Gragson 50.296
  29. Zane Smith R 50.318
  30. AJ Allmendinger 50.332
  31. Justin Haley 50.346
  32. Austin Hill R 50.375
  33. Austin Dillon 50.413
  34. Todd Gilliland 50.504
  35. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 50.483
  36. BJ McLeod 50.609
  37. Cody Ware 50.796
  38. Riley Herbst R 50.891
  39. Ty Dillon 51.045
  40. Corey LaJoie 51.053
  41. Chandler Smith 51.422
  42. Conor Daly No Time

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