Alex Bowman swapped car numbers for the 2021 season – from 88 to 48 – yet has unquestionably held his Daytona magic, acquiring the shaft position for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), giving the Hendrick Motorsports driver a record fourth continuous first row start in the NASCAR Cup Series season-opener.
Bowman, 27, went out late in the qualifying order (38th of 44 drivers) Wednesday night – the main evening post qualifying meeting in race history – yet his Chevrolet conveniently set the tone with a lap of 191.261 mph (47.056 secs.), taking the best position from Hendrick Motorsports colleague William Byron by in excess of a quarter-second.
“It was fast,” Byron said, grinning about Bowman’s post winning lap.
The Hendrick partners additionally began close by each other in 2019, when Byron edged Bowman for the shaft position. Bowman acquired his first Daytona 500 post in 2018 and began second a year ago. Hendrick Motorsports currently has 14 Daytona 500 post positions.
“It doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with me, right,” Bowman said on pit street in the wake of qualifying. “It’s a testament to these guys and everybody back in the shop at Hendrick Motorsports. They work so hard on these superspeedway cars. They are 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.”
And, he added, “It’s more about the people that make it happen. I floored it, but I’m pretty sure everyone else did too. I’m just appreciative my race car is fast.”
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola was third quickest in the No. 10 Ford followed on the speed graph by Bubba Wallace, who procured rave audits in his presentation driving the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota, which is co-claimed by three-time and protecting Daytona 500 winning driver Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan. Wallace’s lap was adequate for the best position just to be taken by Byron three vehicles later.
Wallace was quickest in 60 minutes in length practice Wednesday evening – his first authority laps with the new association and he was obviously feeling optimistic about the week. He wrapped sprinter up in his absolute first Daytona 500 out of 2018.
“Everything’s shaping up to be a great ending for us, we just have to get through it,” Wallace said. “It’s kind of the same feeling I had in 2018, my first 500. The speed was there, we qualified decent and had a really good Duel and finished second in the 500.
“I think the way things are going, we just have to keep it going, keep the positive momentum going. Everything’s kind of going well in the car. I’m confident. Still getting things worked out but all in all it comes pretty natural when you have a great team behind you.”
Wallace said he got a “very positive” text from Jordan in the wake of qualifying and said the ball hotshot shows up in Daytona on Thursday as expected for the Bluegreen Vacation Duel (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will eventually set the beginning setup for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Hamlin, the three-time protecting Daytona 500 champ was twelfth quickest in qualifying. The two kidded about Wallace being quicker.
“I’m aware,” Hamlin said with a smile, adding, “It’s actually a pretty solid qualifying effort certainly for our FedEx team, just barely out of the top 10 there so that’s a good starting spot for us and we’re excited about it.
“Obviously that was a great run by the 23 team. They just barely missed it there by a tenth or so to get that locked in spot (on the front row). But now they get to go out there and race and get the experience they need to get a good finish on Sunday.”
Speed insightful, a year ago’s polesitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. demonstrated quick again – fifth speediest in the JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford), Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), Ryan Preece (No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet), 2018 Daytona 500 victor Austin Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) and Daniel Suarez (No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) balanced the main 10.
Preece and thirteenth spot qualifier David Ragan were snappiest among Open vehicle groups expecting to qualify dependent on schedule. The remainder of the Open vehicle group drivers – Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Timmy Hill, Noah Gragson, Ty Dillon and Garrett Smithley – should fight it out in the Duel races with the most noteworthy finisher among them in each Duel acquiring a spot in the Daytona 500.
Gragson bombed pre-qualifying assessment multiple times and lost the lap in his No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet accordingly. A group part from the No. 62 has likewise been shot out because of the pre-qualifying examination disappointments.
Bluegreen Vacation Duel 1 is booked for a 7 p.m. ET start Thursday, while Bluegreen Vacation Duel 2 is set for 9 p.m. ET right a while later. Both will air live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
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