09 Feb 2020
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has secured pole position for next week’s Daytona 500, ending a five-year spell of dominance for Hendrick Motorsports in qualifying for NASCAR’s season opener.
Stenhouse’s time of 46.253 at a speed of 194.582 mph was just over half a tenth of a second quicker than Alex Bowman who will join him on the front row of the grid.
Hendrick trio Bowman, Chase Elliott, and Jimmie Johnson came closest to dethroning Stenhouse, but had to contend with a headwind which picked up on the backstretch as the session went on.
Stenhouse, driving a Hendrick-engined JTG Daugherty Chevrolet entry for the first time since leaving Roush Fenway Racing, held the top spot for most of the single lap session, having been the 18th of 43 drivers to hit the track.
Defending race winner Denny Hamlin was the top Toyota runner in fifth, ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate and defending series champion Kyle Busch, with Aric Almirola the top Ford in seventh.
2019 polesitter William Byron was some way off his Hendrick team mates in eighth, with Cup debutante Christopher Bell the top performing rookie in ninth. Erik Jones completed the top-10 ahead of previous 500 winners Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.
July 2019 Daytona race winner Justin Haley and Superspeedway specialist Brendon Gaughan secured the two guaranteed starting spots among the non-chartered teams. The remaining five will have a chance to secure three of the final starting spots in the Duel qualifying races on Thursday night – which determine the starting order for the Daytona 500 from third to 40th.
Among the drivers without a guaranteed starting spot in next Sunday’s race is 2016 Xfinity series champion Daniel Suarez, now racing for Gaunt Brothers Racing after being ousted by Stewart-Haas over the winter.
While Stenhouse’s pole ends a five-year pole run for Hendrick Motorsports, it continues an impressive run for the organisation’s engines over the last decade.
Since 2010 Hendrick engines have won all but two poles for the Daytona 500 with Carl Edwards in 2012 and Austin Dillon in 2014 the only exceptions.
Mark Martin followed up a stellar comeback campaign in 2009 to scoop the 2010 pole for Hendrick. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the fastest qualifier a year later but lost the pole after a practice crash four days later.
Danica Patrick then made history as the first female polesitter driving a Hendrick-engined Chevy for Stewart-Haas in 2013.
In more recent years Hendrick has not only had the engines, but the cars to beat at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Last year William Byron, racing for the first time with Johnson’s former crew chief Chad Knaus, secured his maiden series pole at the race.
In 2017 the top spot went to Alex Bowman in his first race in the #88 car since Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired. Before that Chase Elliott took back-to-back poles, while in 2015 Jeff Gordon was the fastest qualifier as he embarked on his final full season.