Death, taxes, and a Chevrolet winning the Daytona 500 pole.
For the tenth straight year, a Chevrolet topped the qualifying charts for the NASCAR Cup Series‘ season opener on Wednesday. This time, it was defending champion Kyle Larson who got to claim the first pole award of the 2022 season while Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Alex Bowman was on the front row for the fifth consecutive 500.
All four Hendrick cars led the first round of qualifying with 2019 500 pole sitter William Byron in front. The top ten—from Byron to Daniel Suárez—advanced to the second and final round, where Larson set the fastest time of 49.680 seconds at 181.159 mph. Larson is the fifth reigning champion to win the pole for the following season’s 500 after Cale Yarborough (1978), Dale Jarrett (2000), Jeff Gordon (1999), and Jimmie Johnson (2008). Poetically and perhaps owing to the team’s dominance over the years, Gordon and Johnson were also Hendrick drivers while the former is currently its vice chairman.
Despite Larson enjoying a highly successful 2021 season and an overall solid Cup career, superspeedways have been a kryptonite for him. Prior to 2022, his best 500 starting position was eighth, his average finish at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are a mediocre 21.1 and 24.5, respectively, and he has more retirements than top tens at Daytona (six to five). However, he has scored top tens in his last three Daytona 500s.
Larson described the pole as feeling like his “proudest pole because you’re proud of everybody who had an impact in doing it.”
Bowman, the 2018 and 2021 pole sitter, has never started outside the front row since becoming a full-time Hendrick driver in 2018. He joins NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Elliott (whose son Chase qualified sixth and is a two-time 500 pole winner for Hendrick), Gordon, Yarborough, Buddy Baker, and Richard Petty for the most total front-row starts in the 500, though Bowman is the only one to do it consecutively.
Among the six non-chartered cars, Noah Gragson and Jacques Villeneuve qualified thirty-third and thirty-sixth to guarantee them positions in the 500. Gragson’s run, driving for Beard Motorsports, ensures he will finally make his Cup début after being involved in a wreck in his Duel last year. Gragson, whose Xfinity Series team JR Motorsports is a Hendrick affiliate, gives Beard Motorsports the chance to properly salute late team owner Mark Beard, who passed away prior to the 2021 500.
Villeneuve is the second driver to win a Formula One World Championship and race in the Daytona 500 after Mario Andretti, but the first to run the Great American Race after scoring the F1 title. The 1997 F1 champion previously tried to make the 500 in 2008 but failed, while his last Cup start was in 2013. When grouping his past accolades like his 1995 Indianapolis 500 triumph with the 500 qualification, Villeneuve can finally add another NASCAR achievement to his resumé along with a Whelen Euro Series race victory in 2021.
The Canadian regarded the qualification as ranking “super high” on his list of accomplishments. His 500 début will also be the first race as a whole for Team Hezeberg.
“Obviously, it’s not a win,” he continued. “It’s not like winning the Indy 500 or the F1 championship, but at this point in my career the last time I tried to qualify here was fourteen years ago, just to make the show is incredible because it’s a small team. We didn’t link up with a big team to get the car ready and it’s highly unexpected to be able to make it on time, so it ranks right after these big wins.”
While Gragson and Villeneuve can celebrate making the race on speed, Kaz Grala, Greg Biffle, J.J. Yeley, and Timmy Hill will need to have strong finishes in Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel to qualify. Grala is aiming to ensure The Money Team Racing can make its maiden race, while Biffle is seeking his first Cup start since 2016. Yeley and Hill, MBM Motorsports team-mates, respectively made their last 500 runs in 2015 and 2020.
Round #1 results
|Position||Number||Driver||Team||Manufacturer||Best Time||Best Speed (mph)||Margin|
|1||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||49.765||180.850||Leader|
|2||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||49.789||180.763||+ 0.024|
|3||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||49.870||180.469||+ 0.105|
|4||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||49.927||180.263||+ 0.162|
|5||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||49.946||180.195||+ 0.181|
|6||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||50.051||179.817||+ 0.286|
|7||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||50.078||179.720||+ 0.313|
|8||21||Harrison Burton||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||50.139||179.501||+ 0.374|
|9||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||50.152||179.454||+ 0.387|
|10||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||50.157||179.437||+ 0.392|
|11||16||Daniel Hemric*||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||50.159||179.429||+ 0.394|
|12||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||50.160||179.426||+ 0.395|
|13||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||50.162||179.419||+ 0.397|
|14||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||50.187||179.329||+ 0.422|
|15||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||50.191||179.315||+ 0.426|
|16||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||50.196||179.297||+ 0.431|
|17||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||Ford||50.196||179.297||+ 0.431|
|18||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||50.202||179.276||+ 0.437|
|19||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||50.203||179.272||+ 0.438|
|20||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||50.204||179.269||+ 0.439|
|21||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||50.205||179.265||+ 0.440|
|22||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||50.209||179.251||+ 0.444|
|23||43||Erik Jones||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||50.218||179.219||+ 0.453|
|24||42||Ty Dillon||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||50.225||179.194||+ 0.460|
|25||45||Kurt Busch||23XI Racing||Toyota||50.285||178.980||+ 0.520|
|26||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||50.312||178.884||+ 0.547|
|27||31||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||50.315||178.873||+ 0.550|
|28||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||Ford||50.378||178.649||+ 0.613|
|29||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||50.539||178.080||+ 0.774|
|30||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||50.550||178.042||+ 0.785|
|31||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||50.559||178.010||+ 0.794|
|32||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||50.639||177.729||+ 0.874|
|33||62||Noah Gragson*||Beard Motorsports||Chevrolet||50.689||177.553||+ 0.924|
|34||77||Landon Cassill*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||50.884||176.873||+ 1.119|
|35||51||Cody Ware||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||50.928||176.720||+ 1.163|
|36||27||Jacques Villeneuve||Team Hezeberg||Ford||51.010||176.436||+ 1.245|
|37||50||Kaz Grala*||The Money Team Racing||Chevrolet||51.094||176.146||+ 1.329|
|38||44||Greg Biffle*||NY Racing Team||Chevrolet||51.100||176.125||+ 1.335|
|39||78||B.J. McLeod||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||51.153||175.943||+ 1.388|
|40||15||David Ragan||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||51.216||175.726||+ 1.451|
|41||55||J.J. Yeley*||MBM Motorsports||Ford||52.005||173.060||+ 2.240|
|42||66||Timmy Hill*||MBM Motorsports||Ford||52.263||172.206||+ 2.498|
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
Bold – Open car that is locked in
Underscore – Open car, have to qualify on Duel result
Round #2 results
|Position||Number||Driver||Best Time||Best Speed (mph)||Margin|
|2||48||Alex Bowman||49.711||181.046||+ 0.031|
|3||24||William Byron||49.765||180.850||+ 0.085|
|4||10||Aric Almirola||49.854||180.527||+ 0.174|
|5||9||Chase Elliott||49.913||180.314||+ 0.233|
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr.||49.989||180.040||+ 0.309|
|7||1||Ross Chastain||50.043||179.845||+ 0.363|
|8||11||Denny Hamlin||50.077||179.723||+ 0.397|
|9||99||Daniel Suárez||50.106||179.619||+ 0.426|
|10||21||Harrison Burton||50.137||179.508||+ 0.457|