NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson continues Hendrick domination with Daytona 500 pole, Gragson and Villeneuve qualify on speed

3 Mins read
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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

PositionNumberDriverTeamManufacturerBest TimeBest Speed (mph)Margin
124William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.765180.850Leader
25Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.789180.763+ 0.024
348Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.870180.469+ 0.105
49Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.927180.263+ 0.162
510Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord49.946180.195+ 0.181
61Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet50.051179.817+ 0.286
719Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota50.078179.720+ 0.313
821Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord50.139179.501+ 0.374
911Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota50.152179.454+ 0.387
1099Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet50.157179.437+ 0.392
1116Daniel Hemric*Kaulig RacingChevrolet50.159179.429+ 0.394
1222Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord50.160179.426+ 0.395
1312Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord50.162179.419+ 0.397
1420Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota50.187179.329+ 0.422
158Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet50.191179.315+ 0.426
1623Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota50.196179.297+ 0.431
176Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord50.196179.297+ 0.431
1818Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota50.202179.276+ 0.437
1914Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord50.203179.272+ 0.438
203Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet50.204179.269+ 0.439
212Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord50.205179.265+ 0.440
2234Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord50.209179.251+ 0.444
2343Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet50.218179.219+ 0.453
2442Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet50.225179.194+ 0.460
2545Kurt Busch23XI RacingToyota50.285178.980+ 0.520
264Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord50.312178.884+ 0.547
2731Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet50.315178.873+ 0.550
2817Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord50.378178.649+ 0.613
2941Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord50.539178.080+ 0.774
307Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet50.550178.042+ 0.785
3138Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord50.559178.010+ 0.794
3247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet50.639177.729+ 0.874
3362Noah Gragson*Beard MotorsportsChevrolet50.689177.553+ 0.924
3477Landon Cassill*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet50.884176.873+ 1.119
3551Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord50.928176.720+ 1.163
3627Jacques VilleneuveTeam HezebergFord51.010176.436+ 1.245
3750Kaz Grala*The Money Team RacingChevrolet51.094176.146+ 1.329
3844Greg Biffle*NY Racing TeamChevrolet51.100176.125+ 1.335
3978B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord51.153175.943+ 1.388
4015David RaganRick Ware RacingFord51.216175.726+ 1.451
4155J.J. Yeley*MBM MotorsportsFord52.005173.060+ 2.240
4266Timmy Hill*MBM MotorsportsFord52.263172.206+ 2.498
Odd-positioned cars in Duel #1, even in Duel #2
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

PositionNumberDriverBest TimeBest Speed (mph)Margin
15Kyle Larson49.680181.159Leader
248Alex Bowman49.711181.046+ 0.031
324William Byron49.765180.850+ 0.085
410Aric Almirola49.854180.527+ 0.174
59Chase Elliott49.913180.314+ 0.233
619Martin Truex Jr.49.989180.040+ 0.309
71Ross Chastain50.043179.845+ 0.363
811Denny Hamlin50.077179.723+ 0.397
999Daniel Suárez50.106179.619+ 0.426
1021Harrison Burton50.137179.508+ 0.457
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About author
Justin is a History major at San Jose State University and lifelong racing fan who has worked for The Checkered Flag since 2018. His coverage mainly focuses on NASCAR, the Stadium Super Trucks, and off-road series like Extreme E and SCORE International. He also dabbles in other disciplines such as IndyCar, rallycross, and sports cars.
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