Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman outperformed the field during this year’s Daytona 500 qualifying. Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Bowman’s No. 48 Camaro, both fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, will lead the field to green on Sunday.
Larson, fresh off his victory as 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, laid down a blistering 49.68-second lap around the 2.5-mile trioval with a top speed of 181.159 mph, earning the first position. The last time a defending Cup Series champion earned the pole for the Daytona 500 was in 2008, when Jimmie Johnson wheeled his Chevy Impala to the front of the field.
Bowman clocked in at 49.711 seconds, topping out at 181.046 mph, good enough to briefly hold the first position until his efforts were thwarted by Larson’s No. 5. Bowman will start the Daytona 500 in second place.
All of Hendrick’s cars qualified in the top five, with William Byron posting the third-fastest time in the No. 24 machine, and Chase Elliott’s No. 9 in fifth. Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang upset the potential for an all-Chevy top five, nabbing the fourth-fastest speed.
Only the top two cars have their starting positions locked after Daytona 500 qualifying. The rest of the contenders must race for position at the Duels – a pair of 60-lap qualifying races around the trioval. The field will be set depending on the drivers’ performances. Both Larson and Bowman must race in the Duels; however, if they are forced to move to a backup car due to a crash or other issue, they must start at the rear of the field instead of at the front.
Noah Gragson will make his first-ever NASCAR Cup Series start in the No. 62 Camaro on Sunday. Gragson posted the 33rd-fastest qualifying lap, but will have the opportunity to advance his starting position if he performs well in the Duels.
The Duels will commence at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, February 17th.