Chase Elliott claimed the pole for the Daytona 500 during Sunday’s qualifying season. Elliott, who drives the #24 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, kept the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy on the pole for the second consecutive season and became the youngest driver to land the top spot in NASCAR’s biggest race at 20 years, 2 months and 17 days.
Elliott climbed into the seat of the #24 from retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon at HMS, and outran 43 other qualifiers for the pole in the iconic #24, Elliott’s lap of 45.845 seconds or 196.314 mph around the 2 ½ mile track was 0.65 seconds or 0.278 mph faster than Matt Kenseth’s second place lap of 196.036 mph. With the front row for the 58th Daytona 500 the rest of the starting order will be determined for the February 21 race in the Can-Am Duels on Thursday.
“A great way to start 2016 for our team,” said Elliott. “Daytona 500 qualifying day is such an opportunity for the teams to really, I feel like, show what they’ve done in the off-season, the kind of work ethic they have, the amount of hours…that are so crucial on qualifying day.”
“That’s what it’s all about today. I don’t feel like it’s about me. Nothing special I did to earn it. It’s about those guys, the kind of car they brought to the racetrack. That’s the biggest thing I look at.”
Elliott is the son of Hall of Fame driver and two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott, who was there to hug his son on pit road after his pole award winning run. The Elliotts became the fourth father-son combination to earn the Daytona 500 pole, joining Richard Petty (1966) and Kyle Petty (1993), Bobby Allison (1981) and Davey Allison (1991), and Dale Earnhardt (1996) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2011). Bill Elliott won the pole three consecutive years in 1985, 1986, 1987 and his last pole for the Daytona 500 came in 2001.
NASCAR disposed of its knockout group qualifying format for Daytona after last season’s group qualifying experiment was an utter disaster with a multi-car wreck plaguing the event. NASCAR reverted back to single cars making one qualifying lap.
For the first time since 1992, Gordon was in the broadcast booth at Daytona International Speedway calling the shots as the #24 car circled the track without him. Gordon interviewed his replacement like a pro, asking how he (Elliott) could keep his momentum heading into “The Great American Race.” Gordon was a three-time Daytona 500 winner and won a pair of poles while driving the #24. Elliott’s speed earned Rick Hendrick, team owner, his 10th overall pole in for the Daytona 500.
With the front row determined for ‘The Great American Race,’ positions 3-40 will be determined in Thursday’s nights Can-Am Duel qualifying races. In the 40-car field, there are 36 teams with NASCAR Charters that are all guaranteed starting positions. There are eight non-charter teams or as NASCAR calls them “Open” teams attempting to make the Daytona 500. Four of the eight will qualify for the race and four will not.
Each of the Can-Am Duels will consist of 18 Charter teams along with four Open teams on Thursday. Duel 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET followed by Duel 2 at 9 p.m. ET both races will be covered on Fox Sports 1, February 18.