In his first qualifying session while piloting one of NASCAR’s iconic numbers, Alex Bowman stole the spotlight under the lights at Daytona International Speedway after claiming the pole position for the 63rd annual running of the Daytona 500 on Wednesday, February 10.
Bowman, who was one of 44 competitors participating in the first Daytona 500 qualifying session at nighttime and under the lights around the 2.5-mile superspeedway, secured the top starting spot for the 500 with a pole-winning speed at 191.261 mph in 47.056 seconds, which was enough for him to edge teammate William Byron, who clocked in with a time at 190.219 mph in 47.314 seconds.
With his accomplishment, Bowman secured his second Daytona 500 pole award, first since 2018 and the third of his NASCAR Cup Series career. His accomplishment also marked the 14th 500 pole award for Hendrick Motorsports and the ninth year in a row for Chevrolet. In addition, Bowman became the first competitor to qualify on the front row for the 500 for a fourth consecutive season. He qualified on the pole for the 2018 Daytona 500 and on the front row the following two seasons.
“It doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with me,” Bowman said while crediting his team led by crew chief Greg Ives on FS1. “It’s a testament to these guys and everybody back at the shop at Hendrick Motorsports. They work so hard on these superspeedway cars. They’re beautiful when they get to the race track. Our Ally Camaro has been really fast since we unloaded and they focused a lot on trying to get the pole for the [Daytona] 500. It means a lot to us and we were able to achieve that…It feels really good. Man, it’s just awesome to be driving his No. 48 car.”
Byron, who won the Daytona 500 pole position in 2019, secured the second starting spot and completed the front row grid for Sunday’s 500 as Hendrick Motorsports’ competitors locked up the front row for the 500 for the fourth time in the last eight years. Ironically, Bowman and Byron qualified on the front row for the 2019 Daytona 500.
The rest of the competitors will have their starting spots for Sunday’s Daytona 500 determined following the Bluegreen Vacations Duel events at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, February 14.
Aric Almirola posted the third-fastest lap followed by Bubba Wallace, who was the fastest competitor during Wednesday’s practice session and turned in his first laps for 23XI Racing. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won the Daytona 500 pole award last season, was the fifth-fastest competitor. Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez posted the top-10 fastest-qualifying laps followed by Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott.
While teammates Bowman and Byron accomplished their task in qualifying on the front row, Preece and David Ragan were also left victorious after both secured starting spots for Sunday’s 500 based on their qualifying speed while competing in non-chartered entries. Preece will make his third consecutive Daytona 500 appearance while Ragan, who posted the 13th-fastest qualifying lap and finished in fourth place in last year’s 500, will make his 15th consecutive appearance on Sunday.
The remaining non-chartered competitors that include Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Ty Dillon, Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill and Noah Gragson will battle against one another for the final two spots for the 500.
Gragson was unable to post a qualifying lap due to his No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE failing pre-qualifying inspection three times. As a result, he will start at the rear of the field in the second duel event. In addition, a crew member from Beard Motorsports was ejected following the inspection failures.
Derrike Cope was also unable to post a qualifying lap due to battery issues on his No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, thus dropping him to the rear of the field for the second duel event. Unlike Gragson, Cope is guaranteed a spot for Sunday’s 500 based on a charter.
The start of the qualifying session encountered a brief delay due to power outage.
The Bluegreen Vacations Duel events at Daytona International Speedway are next on the schedule, with both to occur on Thursday, February 11. The first duel event will commence at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 while the second duel event will commence at 9 p.m. ET on FS1. All will lead up to the 63rd annual running of the Daytona 500, which will occur on Sunday, February 14, at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.