Daytona 500: Bowman claims pole for 2021 NASCAR season-opener

Alex Bowman claimed a second Daytona 500 pole position in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Cup season-opener, with team-mate William Byron securing a second Hendrick Motorsports front-row in three years

Daytona 500: Bowman claims pole for 2021 NASCAR season-opener

In a change from the traditional multi-segment format to qualifying for the curtain-raiser, each car on the 44-strong entry list was permitted to run a single timed lap on the oval to decide the order, with the session also being run at night for the first time.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr had set the early benchmark time of 44.477s for JTG Daugherty, before Bubba Wallace - driving for the new Michael Jordan-Denny Hamlin-owned 23XI Racing - shaved 0.003 seconds off Stenhouse's time to slot his Toyota Camry at the head of the timing sheets at the halfway mark.

Byron, who took pole in the last Hendrick front-row lockout in 2019, bettered Wallace's effort by just over a tenth-and-a-half to take top spot as the more established Cup runners began to filter out to set their times.

Bowman, now driving the #48 Chevrolet Camaro after Jimmie Johnson departed for IndyCar, was the 36th car to post a flying lap, with his effort being recorded as 47.056s at 191.261mph, some 0.256s quicker than Byron.

It is the fourth year in succession that Bowman will start on the front-row, and a record extending 14th and 30th pole in the event for Hendrick and Chevrolet respectively.

The two cars on the first row are the only ones assured of their starting position for the race, as the remaining 38 slots will be decided in the Duels, due to take place on Thursday evening Eastern Time.

Drivers who finished qualifying in odd-numbered positions will race in the first Duel - 60 laps (150 miles) on the oval, with their finishing positions in that event corresponding to how they will form up behind poleman Bowman on the odd side.

The likes of triple Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, the returning Kyle Larson and 2018 Cup champion Joey Logano will compete in the first Duel.

In the second Duel, identical in format, Wallace, who ended the day's earlier practice session fastest, will be joined by drivers including Kevin Harvick, reigning champion Chase Elliott, both Kurt and Kyle Busch and 2021 Cup rookies Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo.

Daniel Suarez, the driver for the new Pitbull-backed Trackhouse Racing squad posted a respectable time, around half-a-second shy of Bowman in qualifying to finish 10th and booking himself a spot in the second of the Duels.

With 36 of the 40 allotted spaces on the starting grid allocated to charter teams, and 44 entries, eight drivers have to push for a way into the race, either through qualifying speed or by winning their respective Duel.

The fastest two 'open' cars, however, are guaranteed a spot in the 500, with David Ragan of Front Row Motorsports and JTG's Ryan Preece the drivers who claimed the available starting positions.

Preece was the last of the 'open' drivers to post a time, with Ragan already secure and Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric on the bubble.

Cindric's effort of 47.9s was bettered by nearly four-tenths by Preece, meaning the reigning Xfinity champion is not yet assured of making his Cup race debut.

Derrike Cope, the 1990 winner of the 500 was set to post his lap early in the session, but a battery problem with his chartered Rick Ware Racing machine left him unable to take to the track.

Because Cope is a chartered entry however, his participation in the race is not in doubt, with the 62-year-old set to race in Duel 2.

Noah Gragson's Beard Motorsports Chevrolet failed tech three times, before passing on the fourth, but was also unable to set a lap-time, meaning his best shot at making a 500 debut is to win his way in.

Daytona 500 qualifying results

Pos Driver Team Gap
1 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports 47.056s
2 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports 0.258s
3 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing 0.268s
4 Darrell Wallace Jr. 23XI Racing 0.418s
5 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing 0.421s
6 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 0.433s
7 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing 0.517s
8 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing 0.529s
9 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing 0.575s
10 Daniel Suarez TrackHouse Racing 0.580s
11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 0.639s
12 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports 0.639s
13 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports 0.674s
14 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing 0.686s
15 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports 0.696s
16 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 0.724s
17 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing 0.825s
18 Ryan Blaney Team Penske 0.839s
19 Austin Cindric Team Penske 0.844s
20 Kaz Grala Kaulig Racing 0.869s
21 Joey Logano Team Penske 0.887s
22 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing 0.900s
23 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing 0.904s
24 Ross Chastain Chip Ganassi Racing 0.916s
25 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing 1.004s
26 Brad Keselowski Team Penske 1.016s
27 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports 1.068s
28 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing 1.109s
29 Erik Jones Richard Petty Motorsports 1.133s
30 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing 1.213s
31 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing 1.291s
32 Anthony Alfredo Front Row Motorsports 1.366s
33 Ty Dillon Gaunt Brothers Racing 1.390s
34 Jamie McMurray Spire Motorsports 1.690s
35 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports 1.711s
36 Quin Houff StarCom Racing 2.515s
37 Garrett Smithley Motorsports Business Management 2.824s
38 B.J. McLeod Live Fast Motorsports 2.929s
39 Timmy Hill Motorsports Business Management 2.960s
40 Cody Ware Petty Ware Racing 3.018s
41 Joey Gase Rick Ware Racing 3.574s
42 Josh Bilicki Rick Ware Racing 3.870s
43 Derrike Cope Rick Ware Racing -
44 Noah Gragson Beard Motorsports -


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