Hendrick dominates Daytona qualifying
Second-year driver William Byron takes team’s fifth straight pole
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.