By­ron earns Day­tona pole as Hen­drick driv­ers siz­zle

The Mercury News - - Sports -

Wil­liam By­ron cap­tured the pole po­si­tion Sun­day in qual­i­fy­ing for the sea­sonopen­ing Day­tona 500.

Join­ing him in the front row at next Sun­day’s race will be Alex Bow­man, his Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports team­mate. Hen­drick driv­ers have won the pole the past five Day­tona 500s.

By­ron’s fi­nal-round lap of 194.304 mph edged Bow­man’s 194.153 mph.

Hen­drick driv­ers Jim­mie John­son and Chase El­liott were third and fourth in qual­i­fy­ing, but only the top two driv­ers ce­mented their start­ing spots for the 500.

The cars that will start in spots three through 40 will be de­cided Thurs­day night in two qual­i­fy­ing races, with 42 driv­ers in the mix. Al­ready, 36 cars have qual­i­fied for the Day­tona 500, so that leaves six cars con­tend­ing for four po­si­tions.

By­ron, 21, is in his se­cond NASCAR sea­son. He earned Rookie of the Year hon­ors last year with four fin­ishes in the top 10. He ranked 23rd in the stand­ings.

In a Twit­ter post af­ter the qual­i­fy­ing race, By­ron cel­e­brated an up­lift­ing start to the sea­son: “First ca­reer NASCAR Cup Se­ries pole and a @TeamHen­drick front row for the #DAYTONA500. Not a bad start to 2019!” JOHN­SON BACK IN VIC­TORY LANE >> 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, seven-time cham­pion Jim­mie John­son was thrilled to ac­cept the vic­tory in Sun­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion Clash at DIS.

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 75lap 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.

All but three of the 20 cars on the track at the time of the wreck suf­fered dam­age.

The 20-car field was com­prised of driv­ers who won a Cup pole in 2018, for­mer Clash win­ners who com­peted full-time in 2018, for­mer Day­tona 500 win­ners who com­peted full-time in 2018, for­mer Day­tona 500 pole win­ners who com­peted full-time in 2018, and driv­ers who qual­i­fied for last year’s Cup play­offs

SEAN GARD­NER — GETTY IM­AGES

Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports driver Wil­liam By­ron, right, claimed the pole for the Day­tona 500.

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