By Jacob Seelman, Featured Contributor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Alex Bowman said going into Daytona 500 pole qualifying on Wednesday that he wasn’t focused on his pursuit of history at the World Center of Racing, but he rewrote the NASCAR record book anyway.
Bowman rocketed to his third Daytona 500 pole position and placed himself on the front row for The Great American Race for a record sixth consecutive year with a blistering lap in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
The 29-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., paced both rounds of time trials and posted a time of 49.536 seconds (181.686 mph) in the final round en route to the fourth Busch Pole Award of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Bowman’s last three Cup poles (’18, ’21, ’23) have all come in Daytona 500 qualifying, but he’s yet to hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy in victory lane. He’s hoping to change that come Sunday afternoon.
“That’s the trick, isn’t it? We’ve obviously not been able to [convert a pole into a win] for the last five years,” Bowman said. “So [it’s about] just trying to make the right decisions, and transferring everything over to race trim as best we can. Just so proud of Hendrick Motorsports, the engine shop, and all of the guys, because this Ally 48 is obviously really fast. I don’t really have a lot to do with qualifying here. I’m just fortunate to qualify some really fast racecars and it’s really cool to see Hendrick Motorsports 1-2-3.”
“I’m petitioning to make [new crew chief] Blake Harris do the five hours of media tomorrow for the pole winner, but I’ll take it, for sure.”
Joining Bowman on the front row for the 65th Daytona 500 Sunday will be his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson, who toured the 2.5-mile superspeedway in 49.708 seconds (181.057 mph) with the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
It marked the ninth career Daytona 500 front row sweep for team owner Rick Hendrick. Both Bowman and Larson, along with teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott, will look to deliver Hendrick’s ninth victory in the Super Bowl of stock car racing – and first Daytona 500 win since 2014 – this weekend.
In addition to securing the front-row starting spots for Sunday’s 500-mile race, Bowman and Larson will lead their respective Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races to green Thursday night as well.
Filling out the top 10 in the final round of qualifying Wednesday and earning top-five Duel starting spots were William Byron, who gave Hendrick Motorsports a third car in the top three in qualifying, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Kyle Busch.
Busch’s final-round time was disallowed because he moved below the double yellow line on the backstretch during his lap in an effort to get a sniff of the aerodynamic draft and improve his speed.
Just missing the final round was 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, who ranked 11th (49.997/180.011) in round one of qualifying and will start sixth in the first Duel on Thursday night.
Elliott missed the final round in a shocking twist, only able to post the 14th-best lap, and will roll off seventh in the second Duel as a result.
The two non-chartered teams who secured Daytona 500 starting spots based on their qualifying speeds Wednesday night were Legacy Motor Club’s Jimmie Johnson, a two-time Daytona 500 champion, and extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana, who will make his Daytona 500 debut Sunday for 23XI Racing.
Johnson was 23rd-quickest overall and Pastrana’s lap ranked 25th among the 42 cars attempting to make the field for this year’s edition of the Daytona 500.
Chandler Smith’s Kaulig Racing Chevrolet battled power issues throughout his timed lap, placing him 41st on the time sheets and slowest among the drivers who were able to hit the track under the lights.
Both Smith and Conor Daly, whose Money Team Racing entry was unable to qualify due to a broken oil line, will have no other route into the Daytona 500 besides racing in through the Duels Thursday night.
Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona will kick off at 7 p.m. ET, with live coverage on FS1, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.