By­ron helps Hen­drick win another Day­tona 500 pole

Bow­man, his team­mate, will start on first row

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

Wil­liam By­ron, at 21 years old, earned the pole po­si­tion for next Sun­day’s Day­tona 500.

Driv­ing the No. 24 car made fa­mous by Hall of Famer Jeff Gor­don, By­ron turned a lap at 194.304 mph to edge team­mate and 2018 pole sit­ter Alex Bow­man by fewer than twotenths of a sec­ond. Bow­man came in at 194.153 mph.

Byson and Bow­man locked in the 1-2 po­si­tions on the front row for the Great Amer­i­can Race, set for 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 17. The rest of the po­si­tions will be de­ter­mined dur­ing Thurs­day’s Cam-Am Du­els.

“It’s been a great off­sea­son. We’re pre­pared. We’re ready,” By­ron said. “This is kind of the first step of our process to­gether, so hope­fully it goes well next Sun­day. We can kind of chill out through­out the Duel races and learn a lit­tle bit.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to it. This is awe­some.”

By­ron’s strong show­ing on an over­cast, misty Sun­day at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way se­cured the pole po­si­tion for Hen­dricks Mo­tor­sports for a record fifth straight year.

“This is the deal, sit­ting up front at Day­tona,” Hen­dricks said.

In fact, the top four fin­ish­ers race for the iconic owner, whose driv­ers now have won nine poles, try­ing Petty En­ter­prises for the most dur­ing the sport’s most fa­mous race.

“It just shows how well ev­ery­one is work­ing to­gether,” Bow­man said.

Vet­eran Jim­mie John­son, a twotime win­ner of the 500, fin­ished third, a spot ahead of 22-year-old Chase El­liott. El­liott won the pole in 2016 and 2017.

Also on Sun­day, John­son, com­ing off a 2018 sea­son which saw him go win­less for the first time in his 18 years as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Cup series, was thrilled to ac­cept the vic­tory in the ex­hi­bi­tion Clash at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

No mat­ter that the race ended with a big wreck — in which he played a star­ring role – or that heavy rain dur­ing the en­su­ing cleanup short­ened the sched­uled 75-lap event to 59 laps.

“Feels good” to be back in Vic­tory Lane for the first time since 2017, the Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports driver said. “Ex­tremely ex­cited to win. It’s not a points race but it’s a good start.”

Kurt Busch, driv­ing his first race for Chip Ganassi Rac­ing, fin­ished sec­ond while de­fend­ing series cham­pion Joey Logano of Team Penske was third.

Paul Me­nard started the race from the pole in the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Rac­ing Ford and led 51 of the first 55 laps. His Sun­day drive was ru­ined when the big wreck oc­curred with 20 laps to go.

The wreck oc­curred when Me­nard, lead­ing the race in the out­side line, inched down the track in an at­tempt to keep John­son from pass­ing for the lead. The two cars touched doors and Me­nard, who was look­ing for his first Cup vic­tory since he won the Brick­yard 400 at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way in 2011, spun up into the wall.

“When Jim­mie pulled out, I moved down a lit­tle bit and the next thing I know I’m get­ting turned in the left rear,” Me­nard said. “Jim­mie does that a lot at these tracks. Just un­for­tu­nate. Led a lot of laps. Tore up a good car for no good rea­son.”

“I think he came down a lit­tle bit to de­fend and block,” John­son said.

All but three of the 20 cars on the track at the time of the wreck suf­fered dam­age. The race was stopped by red flags twice as light rain moved in and out of the area.

Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Wil­liam By­ron, driver of the No. 24 Ax­alta Chevro­let, turned a lap of 194.304 mph on Sun­day to win the pole for the Day­tona 500.

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