By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion didn’t skip a beat rolling into 2022.
Kyle Larson earned his first career Superspeedway pole award Wednesday Night and handed Hendrick Motorsports their 15th career Daytona 500 pole. His 49.680-second (181.159-mph) lap was just .031-seconds faster than his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman who qualified second.
Adding to the statistics, it is the 8th time that Hendrick Motorsports has swept the first two starting spots for the Daytona 500 along with the 8th time that at least one HMS car has sat on the front row. It was close to being a Hendrick 1-2-3-4, but Aric Almirola threw up the fourth fastest lap. HMS qualified 1-2-3-5 with William Byron qualifying third and Chase Elliott qualifying fifth.
Of course, it’s not a guarantee that both Larson and Bowman will start from the front row. The two will have to survive their respective Duel races on Thursday with clean cars and have no unapproved adjustments between now and Thursday. As for the rest of the field, their starting spots for the Daytona 500 will be set Thursday at the end of 60-lap Bluegreen Vacations Duel’s.
Larson will start from the pole in Duel No. 1 while Alex Bowman will start from the pole in Duel No. 2.
“It’s really neat,” said Larson. “It makes me just, I mean anytime you are really proud of your team to get a pole here cause this is the littlest it has to do with us drivers, qualifying at superspeedways. Just a huge thank you to the engine shop at Hendrick Motorsports. Everybody who’s had a part in touching these vehicles, whether it be on the computer, engineering, or just hands-on. It’s really neat, just awesome the speed in our HendrickCars.com Chevy. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a really good weekend.”
The race within the race will feature six open cars fighting for the final four spots. Noah Gragson and Jacques Villeneuve will not have to worry about missing the Daytona 500 as their qualifying times during Wednesday’s session were enough to clinch their spots should they not finish highest in their races.
Kaz Grala, Greg Biffle, J.J. Yeley, and Timmy Hill will all await their destiny following the two 60-lap Duels on Thursday.
The Bluegreen Vacations Duels will go live on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR RaceDay. Duel No. 1 will kick off at 7 p.m. ET with Duel No. 2 kicking off right after. The Duels will also be broadcasted live on MRN starting at 6 p.m. ET.