Hen­drick dom­i­nates Day­tona qual­i­fy­ing

Sec­ond-year driver Wil­liam By­ron takes team’s fifth straight pole

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kelly Cran­dall RACER | USA TO­DAY Net­work

Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports con­tin­ued its stran­gle­hold on Day­tona 500 qual­i­fy­ing with its fifth con­sec­u­tive pole award Sun­day af­ter­noon.

For the 61st an­nual Day­tona 500, it will be sec­ond-year driver Wil­liam By­ron lead­ing the field to the green flag at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way. The pole is the first of By­ron’s Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries ca­reer and comes in his first race with Chad Knaus as his crew chief. By­ron’s pole-winning speed was 194.305 mph.

“The Ax­alta Chevy was re­ally fast,” By­ron said. “Credit to Chad and all the guys. It’s been a great off­sea­son. We’re pre­pared. We’re ready. 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 will be joined on the front row by HMS team­mate Alex Bow­man. Bow­man was the pole-sit­ter in last year’s Day­tona 500 and clocked in at 194.154.

With By­ron’s lap, it also gives Chevro­let its 700th pole in the Cup Se­ries.

By­ron and Bow­man are the only two driv­ers with their 500 start­ing spots locked up. The rest of the 40-car field will be set Thurs­day in the Gan­der RV Duel races.

Tyler Red­dick and Casey Mears were the fastest of the teams with­out a char­ter, guar­an­tee­ing their spots in the 500.

❚ Pre-qual­i­fy­ing ejec­tions: Austin Dil­lon, Chase El­liott and Ty Dil­lon will be with­out their car chiefs for the rest of Speed­weeks. The Nos. 3, 9 and 13 cars failed pre-qual­i­fy­ing in­spec­tion twice Sun­day morn­ing, re­sult­ing in the ejec­tion of their car chiefs and the loss of 15 min­utes in fi­nal prac­tice on Satur­day. All three cars passed in­spec­tion on the third time, and the driv­ers did get to make a qual­i­fy­ing run for the 500.

❚ Jim­mie in vic­tory lane: Jim­mie John­son earned his sec­ond Ad­vance Auto Parts Clash vic­tory Sun­day in an ex­hi­bi­tion race af­fected by rain sev­eral times be­fore be­ing called af­ter 59 laps. John­son, who was win­less in the Cup Se­ries in 2018, on lap 56 pulled to the in­side of leader Paul Me­nard, caus­ing con­tact that left Me­nard spin­ning and many cars in the field of 20 wrecked.

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