In recent years, Hendrick Motorsports has dominated Daytona 500 qualifying, winning every 500 pole since 2015. For the 2019 race, the trend continues as William Byron will lead the field to the green.
Daytona 500 qualifying differs from other races in that it is a two-round, single-car session. The top twelve drivers advance to the final round, though all spots outside of the pole are not locked in until the Gander RV Duels on Thursday. As 42 drivers are entered for the 500, two will not qualify if they are unable to record strong runs in the Duels; due to the charter system, six teams that do not have charters must race their ways into the 500, either by Duel finish or on speed on Sunday.
Before qualifying, Chase Elliott and the Dillon brothers (Austin and Ty) lost their car chiefs for the remainder of Speedweeks after failing inspection twice.
Despite the crewman loss, Elliott was competitive in his qualifying run as he logged the third-fastest time in the first round. Hendrick team-mate Alex Bowman recorded the fastest run, followed by fellow HMS drivers Byron, Elliott, and Jimmie Johnson. Behind the HMS group were Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Daniel Hemric, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, and Paul Menard.
Of the non-chartered “open” teams, Tyler Reddick and Casey Mears, respectively making their Daytona 500 debut and first 500 start since 2016, guaranteed themselves a spot in the 500 with their qualifying runs. Mears’ time beat out Ryan Truex, who — along with Parker Kligerman, Brendan Gaughan, and Joey Gase — must use the Duels to qualify.
Byron led the second round en route to his first career Daytona 500 pole and first in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Behind him were HMS team-mates Bowman, Johnson, and Elliott. Each of the four have recorded 500 poles in their Cup career, with all but Johnson doing so in the last five years.
For Chad Knaus, the longtime crew chief for Johnson who moved to Byron’s team for 2019, it is his third 500 pole and first since 2008. For Chevrolet, the manufacturer enjoyed its 700th pole.