In a performance reminiscent of his predecessor in the Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet number 24 car, Rookie Chase Elliott captured the pole position on the most well-known and popular racetrack on the NASCAR circuit.
He was under major scrutiny taking the place of Jeff Gordon who is in the sem-retirement using the same chassis that the popular driver used to win the spot in 2015. Elliot covered the 2.5 mile oval at Daytona International Speedway in 45.85 seconds at a speed of 196.3 miles per hour, edging out fellow racer Matt Kenseth who turned the same lap at 196.0 miles per hour to earn second spot. These 2 are the only ones who have secured their spots in this year’s field. Everyone else will qualify based upon their finish in the twin 150 mile Can-Am duel races that will be held on Thursday evening.
Kenseth who has never qualified in this high of a position, was ecstatic upon hearing the news stating that he had never qualified in the front row there before, so that certainly took off some pressure for later in the week. Chase Elliott was still a bit overwhelmed since he added that he did not know that this opportunity had sunk in yet, much less sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500.
Capturing the pole as a rookie is an uncommon event at this heralded raceway. Adding to the drama was the fact that Elliot is only 20 years, 2 months and 17 days old, making him the youngest driver ever to capture this position. The previous youngest winner was Austin Dillon who was 23 years, 9 months and 27 days when he had the fastest time in 2014. If he were to win the race on Sunday, February 21st, Chase would be the youngest winner ever of this event that has often been referred as NASCAR’s biggest race. That particular scenario seems highly unlikely since the last person to win the pole and the race was Dale Jarrett in the year 2000.
Hendrick Motorsports has won this coveted spot of a total of 10 times, 3 in the iconic number 24, with Jeff Gordon taking it the previous 2 times before this year. Elliot actually completed the 4th father/son duo to capture the pole here along with the Pettys, Allisons, and Earnhardt families.
As the kickoff to the 2016 NASCAR season, the Daytona 500 always provides an interesting spectacle. As this year’s crop of young racers gets even more experience, the race for the chase will get even more exciting. Drivers like Kyle Larson, Logan Dillon and Ryan Blaney among others will provide a shot in the arm as veterans retire and younger ones taking their place.