Byron helps Hendrick win another Daytona 500 pole
Bowman, his teammate, will start on first row
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.
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.