Logano clinches first Daytona 500 pole; McDowell claims front-row starting spot

Joey Logano saved his best qualifying lap for last and the result netted him the Busch Light Pole Award for this year’s 66th annual running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway following the event’s single-car, two-round qualifying session on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

The qualifying format that determined the front row and pole winner of this year’s Daytona 500 event was based on two qualifying rounds comprised of a single-lap session for each competitor. Following the first round, the top-10 fastest qualifiers from a total of 42 transferred to the second and final single-lap round to contend for the pole and a front-row starting spot.

During the qualifying session, Logano, who was the fastest qualifier during the first qualifying round, repeated his strong, early performance by claiming the pole position for this year’s Great American Race. He posted a pole-winning lap at 181.947 mph in 49.465 seconds in his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang Dark Horse, which was enough to outperform Michael McDowell, who qualified with the second-fastest qualifying lap at 181.686 mph in 49.536 seconds.

With his accomplishment, Logano, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and the 2015 Daytona 500 champion, became the 45th competitor to claim the pole position for the Great American Race as he also notched his 29th Cup Series career pole and first on a superspeedway venue.

Logano also snapped Chevrolet’s 11-year pole-winning streak by achieving Ford’s first 500 pole since Carl Edwards in 2012 and he became the first non-Hendrick Motorsports competitor to win the pole position for the 500 since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made the last accomplishment in 2020. As a result, Logano also recorded the first Daytona 500 pole award for Team Penske as he strives to battle for his second Great American Race victory this upcoming Sunday, Feb. 18.

“This [pole] is all about the team,” Logano said on FS1. “I’d like to take credit, but I can’t today. The guys have done such an amazing job working on these cars. This superspeedway qualifying is a hundred percent the car. There’s only so much a driver can do, so I’m really proud of [the team]. It’s a big win for our team, for everyone at Team Penske, Ford with the new Dark Horse Mustang. Being able to come down here and put in on the pin. Finally, someone else wins the pole. That part feels good. I’ve never even been close to a superspeedway pole before, so it’s my first pole in a speedway. It couldn’t be at a cooler event [than], obviously, Daytona 500. Huge deal for Team Penske.”

Joining Logano on the front row for this year’s Daytona 500 and for the first time in his career is Michael McDowell, the 2021 Daytona 500 champion who qualified in his No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Front Row Motorsports. Ironically, this year’s Daytona 500 marks the first time Ford competitors have swept the front-row starting spots since Edwards and Greg Biffle in 2012. McDowell’s win at last year’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course enabled him to qualify for the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs and strive to contend for a second Daytona 500 victory.

Kyle Larson, the 2022 Daytona 500 pole winner and the 2021 Cup Series champion, posted the third-fastest qualifying time of 181.550 mph in 49.550 seconds and will be one of the remaining 40 competitors to vie for their official starting spots for the 500 through a pair of Bluegreen Vacations Duel that will take place on Thursday, Feb. 15. Austin Cindric and Chase Elliott completed the top five in qualifying time and speed while William Byron, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain and Harrison Burton, all of whom advanced to the second and final qualifying round, rounded out the top 10 on the qualifying chart.

Todd Gilliland, who was one of 32 competitors who did not transfer to the second qualifying session, posted the 11th-fastest qualifying time of 180.339 mph in 49.903 seconds followed by Riley Herbst, Ryan Preece, Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Noah Gragson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez and Anthony Alfredo.

Alfredo and David Ragan were also victorious along with Logano and McDowell as both achieved guaranteed starting spots for this year’s Daytona 500 by being the two fastest non-chartered qualifiers of six on the leaderboard.

Alfredo ended up being the fastest non-chartered competitor on the leaderboard after posting his qualifying lap at 179.648 mph in 50.098 seconds, which was enough to claim 20th place on the leaderboard. With his accomplishment, Alfredo, a full-time Xfinity Series competitor for Our Motorsports and a part-time Cup competitor in Beard Motorsports’ No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry this season, will make his second career start in the Daytona 500 after making his first with Front Row Motorsports in 2021. In addition, Beard Motorsports, who did not make the 500 field last season, will appear in the 500 for a sixth time this upcoming Sunday.

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for SpeedwayMedia.com.

“This is insane,” Alfredo said. “We were just talking about every possible scenario we might find ourselves in today, tomorrow and obviously, Sunday, but to make it to Sunday’s a challenge. It was such a competitive field of open cars and drivers behind the wheel. I’m just really thankful for the Beard family [for] giving me this opportunity and Death Wish Coffee coming on board. We have, clearly, a fast Chevrolet Camaro. To know that we’re in [the Daytona 500] and cannot have to race in tomorrow [via the Duels] and just remove ourselves from some of the sketchy circumstances and focus on Sunday is just an amazing feeling.”

Ragan posted the 27th-fastest qualifying lap at 179.283 mph in 50.200 seconds, which was enough for him to outperform Jimmie Johnson, who posted the 35th-fastest lap at 178.845 mph in 50.323 seconds. With his accomplishment, Ragan, who is piloting Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s No. 60 Ford Mustang Dark Horse as part of the team’s #Stage60 program, will make his 17th appearance in the Great American Race this Sunday and his first since the 2022 season. This year’s Daytona 500 will mark his first Cup start as a Roush competitor since the 2011 season as Ragan will also be pursuing his first 500 victory.

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for SpeedwayMedia.com.

“It’s always big to be in the Daytona 500 and the whole week, I’ve just been trying to make sure we didn’t have any mistakes,” Ragan said. “I really feel like we were gonna have a shot at a top-10 or top-12 starting spot, but it just shows all the hard work this BuildSubmarines.com Ford team has done. I’m really proud for [crew chief] Derrick [Finley] and proud for the whole [Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing] guys. I appreciate [owners] Brad Keselowski and Jack Roush [for] giving me an opportunity to come down here to try to win a Daytona 500.”

The remaining open competitors including Jimmie Johnson, BJ McLeod, JJ Yeley and Kaz Grala will compete for the final two open spots for this weekend’s Daytona 500 through Thursday’s Duels.

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is a pair of Bluegreen Vacations Duels that will determine the rest of the starting lineup for this year’s 66th running of the Daytona 500 scheduled for Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX. First, on Thursday, Feb. 15, the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel is slated to commence at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 while the second Duel event will follow suit at approximately at 8:45 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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