Crash at the Clash
ABOVE Martin Truex Jr. (19), Denny Hamlin (11), Kevin Harvick (4), Austin Dillon (3), Clint Bowyer (14), Erik Jones (20), Chase Elliott (9), Daniel Suarez (41), Ryan Newman (6), Alex Bowman (88) and Aric Almirola (10) are involved in a multi-car pileup during the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Clash on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Jimmie Johnson triggered the wreck, which wiped out nearly the entire 20-car field, and zipped to the lead to win the exhibition. RIGHT Bowman, left, congratulates pole winner William Byron, right, after their qualifying runs Sunday for the Daytona 500. Bowman will be in the No. 2 starting position for the Feb. 17 race. They comprise the youngest front row in Daytona 500 history.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — William Byron put Hendrick Motorsports in a familiar position: on the pole for the Daytona 500. His bigger goal is to make the starting spot pay dividends for the NASCAR powerhouse.
Byron, 21, and teammate Alex Bowman, 25, locked in the front row for “The Great American Race” during qualifying laps Sunday at Daytona Inter- national Speedway. They comprise the youngest front row in Daytona 500 history.
The coveted starting spot hasn’t meant much for NASCAR’s season opener over the last two decades, though. The last Daytona 500 pole-sitter to win the race was Dale Jarrett in 2000.
The last four — Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliott (twice) and Bowman — have failed to notch a top-10 finish.
“To have them on top of each other means the organization did a heck of a job,” Rick Hendrick said. “This is the deal to sit on the pole at Daytona.”
Byron and Bowman edged
the other two Hendrick drivers: seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and fan favorite Chase El- liott.
“That’s a pretty amazing feat, I feel,” said longtime Hendrick crew chief Chad Knaus, who is entering his first season with Byron after 18 years with Johnson.