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Lights go out, Alex Bowman turns out in Daytona 500 qualifying to win pole – The Checkered Flag

Alex Bowman is pretty good at qualifying for the Daytona 500. For the fourth consecutive year, he will begin the NASCAR Cup Series season on the front row for the 500, but will particularly do so from the pole position for the second time.

Bowman, who won the pole in 2018, repeated the feat in Wednesday night’s qualifying session with a dominating single-car run in which he went 191.261 mph, over a mile faster than second-placed Hendrick Motorsports team-mate William Byron. Hendrick and Chevrolet have dominated 500 qualifying for much of the last decade, with a Chevy driver winning the pole every year since 2013 and a Hendrick driver specifically in six of the last seven years. The exception to the latter was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Hendrick ally JTG Daugherty Racing in 2020. During the first practice session of Speedweeks earlier in the day, the four Hendrick drivers opted to perform single-car runs emulating the qualifying format instead of drafting like other teams, which resulted in the quartet being mired in the twenties but provided additional preparation for qualifying.

“I think for us, we’ve started up there together before so I feel like for us, we can rely on that experience, especially being teammates with Alex for the last three years,” Byron commented in his post-qualifying press conference. He is no stranger to winning at Daytona, having won the fall race last season for his maiden Cup victory. “It’s really been comfortable to work with him.

“I feel like that’s the goal, is to stay up there and contend and lead a bunch of laps and control the lanes; that’s our goal first and foremost. But you’ve got to get to the end as well, and if you get yourself in tough positions, you just have to realise that it’s better to try to rally back at the end of the race and not tear something up.”

The pole is the #48 car’s first in the 500 since Jimmie Johnson in 2008; Bowman took over the famed #48 for 2021 after Johnson’s retirement. Byron, the 2019 pole winner, took the fastest time from Bubba Wallace and staved off a charge from Aric Almirola before being surpassed by his team-mate. Almirola and Wallace, the latter of whom led the first practice session, respectively qualified third and fourth.

“It’s pretty incredible, right? I’m so appreciative and blessed with this opportunity,” Bowman said in his conference. “I think for me, it’s really hard to sit here and be like, ‘Yeah, I did it and I did this and that,’ and that’s why we’re on the pole for four consecutive years or on the front row for four consecutive years.

“It’s much more about Hendrick Motorsports and the #48 team, (crew chief) Greg Ives, the engine shop, the chassis shop, body shop, Chevrolet, everybody at Ally for all their support. It’s more about the people that make it happen.”

While Wallace and his new 23XI Racing team were the talk of the show, fellow series newcomer Trackhouse Racing Team also enjoyed qualifying success as Daniel Suárez was tenth. Trackhouse co-owner Justin Marks tweeted, “Lots of work ahead this week but couldn’t be more pleased!”

Ryan Preece and David Ragan were the two fastest cars among the eight non-chartered teams, enabling them to clinch spots in the 500. Preece, who plans to run the full schedule but his #37 JTG team lost its charter, was the eighth-fastest overall. Ragan and his #36 Front Row Motorsports machine was thirteenth and will race in the 500 for the second year since his retirement from full-time competition.

With Preece and Ragan locking themselves in on time, the other six open drivers—Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Ty Dillon, Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill, and Noah Gragson—will have to step up in Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel. Gragson faces an uphill battle as he will start from the rear; his #62 Beard Motorsports car failed pre-qualifying technical inspection thrice, disqualifying him from setting a qualifying time.

Derrike Cope, preparing for his final race as a NASCAR driver, also did not set a time due to a battery issue. However, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner is guaranteed a slot in the race via charter.

Qualifying was delayed for fifteen minutes when the speedway’s infield lights abruptly went out due to a power grid outage in Daytona Beach. While no cars took the track as a result, a hypothetical darkness-filled session would not be a first for Daytona or Speedweeks; in 2011, final practice for the now-Busch Clash was briefly held in the dark when the lighting on parts of the speedway shut off.

The Bluegreen Vacations Duel is set for Thursday night. Bowman and Byron will start on the pole for each race, and their finish in their respective Duel does not impact their front-row starting positions for the 500.

Qualifying results

Position Number Driver Team Manufacturer Best Time Best Speed (mph)
1 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 47.056 191.261
2 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 47.314 190.219
3 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 47.324 190.178
4 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 47.474 189.577
5 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 47.477 189.565
6 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 47.489 189.518
7 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 47.573 189.183
8 37 Ryan Preece JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 47.585 189.135
9 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 47.631 188.953
10 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 47.636 188.933
11 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 47.695 188.699
12 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 47.695 188.699
13 36 David Ragan Front Row Motorsports Ford 47.730 188.561
14 1 Kurt Busch Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 47.742 188.513
15 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 47.752 188.474
16 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 47.780 188.363
17 21 Matt DiBenedetto Wood Brothers Racing Ford 47.881 187.966
18 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 47.895 187.911
19 33 Austin Cindric* Team Penske Ford 47.900 187.891
20 16 Kaz Grala Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 47.925 187.793
21 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 47.943 187.723
22 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 47.956 187.672
23 6 Ryan Newman Roush Fenway Racing Ford 47.960 187.656
24 42 Ross Chastain Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet 47.972 187.609
25 41 Cole Custer Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 48.060 187.266
26 2 Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford 48.072 187.219
27 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 48.124 187.017
28 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 48.165 186.858
29 43 Erik Jones Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet 48.189 186.765
30 17 Chris Buescher Roush Fenway Racing Ford 48.269 186.455
31 8 Tyler Reddick Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 48.347 186.154
32 38 Anthony Alfredo Front Row Motorsports Ford 48.422 185.866
33 96 Ty Dillon* Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota 48.446 185.774
34 77 Jamie McMurray Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 48.746 184.631
35 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 48.767 184.551
36 00 Quin Houff StarCom Racing Chevrolet 49.571 181.558
37 13 Garrett Smithley* MBM Motorsports Ford 49.880 180.433
38 78 B.J. McLeod* Live Fast Motorsports Ford 49.985 180.054
39 66 Timmy Hill* MBM Motorsports Ford 50.016 179.942
40 51 Cody Ware Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet 50.074 179.734
41 53 Joey Gase Rick Ware Racing Ford 50.630 177.76
42 52 Josh Bilicki Rick Ware Racing Ford 50.926 176.727
43 15 Derrike Cope Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet No Time No Time
44 62 Noah Gragson* Beard Motorsports Chevrolet No Time No Time
Odd-positioned cars in Duel #1, even in Duel #2
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
Bold – Open car that is locked in
Underscore – Open car, have to qualify on Duel result
* – Ineligible for Cup points

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