NASCAR Cup Series

Alex Bowman wins Daytona 500 pole yet again, Johnson and Pastrana lock in

4 Mins read
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

If you placed a bet saying anyone besides Hendrick Motorsports would win the Daytona 500 pole, you might be delusional.

Hendrick cars swept the top three in Wednesday night’s qualifying for the second year in a row, with Alex Bowman clearing defending pole-sitter Kyle Larson by over a tenth of a second. Besides being his third career Daytona 500 pole after 2018 and 2021, Bowman has qualified on the front row a record six years in a row.

A Chevrolet has won the race pole every year since 2013, while a Hendrick car or a technical partner has done so for the past nine editions.

“I don’t really feel like I tried to do anything different than the other guys,” Bowman said in his post-qualifying press conference. He had signed a contract extension with Hendrick through 2026 earlier in the day. “Just try to kind of let the race car go where it wants and not bind it up.

“As a driver, really all you can do is get the best launch you can, hit your shift points right, try to run the best you can, not mess it up. Glad I didn’t mess it up. I was kind of just letting the race car go where it wanted to.”

The ten-car second round of qualifying exclusively consisted of Chevrolets and Fords, with every Hendrick driver but Chase Elliott advancing. Kyle Busch of Richard Childress Racing was the lone non-Hendrick Chevrolet in Round #2, but had his time disallowed after going below the double yellow line. Aric Almirola led the six Fords who cracked the second round in fourth.

Toyota’s Bubba Wallace barely missed out on Round #2 after qualifying eleventh, just .001 behind tenth-placed Harrison Burton. While no Toyotas made the second round, Wallace’s 23XI Racing team-mate Travis Pastrana had plenty of reason to celebrate as he qualified twenty-fifth to guarantee himself a spot in the race as the second-best car without a charter.

Credit: Legacy Motor Club

By locking himself on qualifying time, Pastrana is set to make his Cup Series début despite having last run a superspeedway race in the Xfinity Series in 2013.

“I shifted a little bit early on two and didn’t lift enough shifting to fifth so I had to double let go and I thought I just blew it,” recalled Pastrana. “I look at Bubba’s time and the car definitely had a little bit more. This team helped me to get there and like Kurt (Busch) just told me, now it’s time to learn. We’ll go to work tomorrow and then we’re in the 500, so cool.

“We’ll party Sunday night, but this is a huge weight off my shoulders. I begged, bartered, and did everything but stealing from everyone to be here.”

Also making the race on time was Jimmie Johnson in twenty-third, boasting the opposite of Pastrana’s lack of Cup experience as a seven-time series champion and twice-500 winner. Incidentally, Johnson’s Cup successes came in the #48 that Bowman currently drives.

“Came down here for my rookie season when the #48 team was just started up. We had to get in through qualifying. That was a very stressful moment. So I’ve kind of fallen back on that experience, although it was twenty-something years ago now,” said Johnson. “There was a different feeling knowing there’s something bad that can happen, you might not be in the race. Did have that sense at the (Indianapolis) 500.

“But once I rolled off pit lane, fortunately that went away. That’s my first time in a plate car with this new Next Gen car. The experience was way different than I anticipated. The ride quality was much rougher. I didn’t know if that was supposed to happen or not.

“Then when I pulled it into fifth gear, which is weird to go to fifth gear, the drag of the vehicle, the rpm dropped really far. I didn’t know that was normal, so the entire lap I made around, I thought something was potentially wrong with the car. The RPM was really low, didn’t feel very fast. Once I crossed the finish line, I heard we had a good lap. It was stressful out there, more stressful than I intended it to be.”

With Johnson and Pastrana locked in, only two spots remain for the four non-chartered cars still hoping to make the race. Zane Smith was the highest qualifier of the four in twenty-ninth ahead of Austin Hill (thirty-second) and Chandler Smith (forty-first), while Conor Daly was unable to set a time after an electrical short burned a hole in his car’s oil line.

Daly, who told The Checkered Flag on Friday that he hoped to race alongside his close friends Pastrana and Johnson, will have to beat Hill in their Duel race on Thursday to qualify.

Qualifying results

Round #1

PositionNumberDriverTeamManufacturerBest TimeBest Speed (mph)Margin
148Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.717181.025Leader
214Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord49.869180.473+ 0.152
35Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.870180.469+ 0.153
422Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord49.881180.429+ 0.164
510Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord49.903180.35+ 0.186
68Kyle BuschRichard Childress RacingChevrolet49.920180.288+ 0.203
724William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.926180.267+ 0.209
82Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord49.927180.263+ 0.210
912Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord49.965180.126+ 0.248
1021Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord49.996180.014+ 0.279
1123Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota49.997180.011+ 0.280
1299Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet50.022179.921+ 0.305
1317Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord50.031179.888+ 0.314
149Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet50.033179.881+ 0.316
151Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet50.038179.863+ 0.321
1641Ryan PreeceStewart-Haas RacingFord50.042179.849+ 0.325
174Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord50.088179.684+ 0.371
186Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord50.091179.673+ 0.374
1954Ty GibbsJoe Gibbs RacingToyota50.107179.616+ 0.390
2045Tyler Reddick23XI RacingToyota50.108179.612+ 0.391
2120Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota50.140179.497+ 0.423
2219Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota50.182179.347+ 0.465
2384Jimmie JohnsonLegacy Motor ClubChevrolet50.202179.276+ 0.485
2434Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord50.205179.265+ 0.488
2567Travis Pastrana23XI RacingToyota50.208179.254+ 0.491
2611Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota50.236179.154+ 0.519
2743Erik JonesLegacy Motor ClubChevrolet50.280178.998+ 0.563
2842Noah GragsonLegacy Motor ClubChevrolet50.296178.941+ 0.579
2936Zane Smith*Front Row MotorsportsFord50.318178.862+ 0.601
3016A.J. AllmendingerKaulig RacingChevrolet50.332178.813+ 0.615
3131Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet50.346178.763+ 0.629
3262Austin Hill*Beard MotorsportsChevrolet50.375178.66+ 0.658
333Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet50.413178.525+ 0.696
3438Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord50.504178.204+ 0.787
3547Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet50.583177.925+ 0.866
3678B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsChevrolet50.609177.834+ 0.892
3751Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord50.799177.169+ 1.082
3815Riley Herbst*Rick Ware RacingFord50.891176.849+ 1.174
3977Ty DillonSpire MotorsportsChevrolet51.045176.315+ 1.328
407Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet51.053176.287+ 1.336
4113Chandler Smith*Kaulig RacingChevrolet51.422175.022+ 1.705
4250Conor Daly*The Money Team RacingChevroletN/AN/AN/A
Odd-positioned cars in Duel #1, even in Duel #2
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
Bold – Open car that is locked in
Underscore – Open car, have to qualify on Duel result

Round #2

PositionNumberDriverTeamManufacturerBest TimeBest Speed (mph)Margin
148Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.536181.686Leader
25Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.708181.057+ 0.172
324William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet49.799180.727+ 0.263
410Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord49.800180.723+ 0.264
522Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord49.803180.712+ 0.267
614Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord49.817180.661+ 0.281
712Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord49.985180.054+ 0.449
82Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord49.996180.014+ 0.460
921Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord50.070179.748+ 0.534
108Kyle BuschRichard Childress RacingChevroletN/AN/AN/A
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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