Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ended a run of five straight Hendrick Motorsports drivers sitting on the Daytona 500 pole by surprisingly grabbing the top spot in his JTG Daugherty Chevrolet. It wasn’t a complete break, though, as Hendrick supplies the engines to JTG Daughtery, too.
Stenhouse was the 18th of 42 drivers to make a one-lap run Sunday afternoon. At 194.582mph (46.253 seconds), Stenhouse earned his first Daytona 500 pole and the third pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“It’s huge,” said Stenhouse. “Anytime you can start the season off, your first race with an organization, and to see all the work that they put in — guys at the shop that I didn’t even know were working Saturday’s, working late nights, all for the benefit of me to come down here and jump in this car and run fast.”
A former winner at Daytona in the July race, Stenhouse now competes for JTG Daugherty after his release from Roush Fenway Racing. The pole is just the third in company history for JTG and its first in the Daytona 500.
Hendrick’s team didn’t miss continuing its streak by much: Joining Stenhouse on the front row is Alex Bowman. It is the third consecutive front row start in the Daytona 500 for Bowman, who ran 194.363mph in his No. 88 Chevy. And Hendrick engines still swept the top four spots in qualifying with Stenhouse topping Bowman, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.
“Touring the Hendrick engine shop, they were pumped up for me to switch over into their horsepower,” continued Stenhouse. “So, this goes to a lot of people that work hard behind the scenes for me to come out here and drive. It’s a cool way to start Speedweeks.”
Stenhouse and Bowman are the only two drivers who have locked in their starting positions for the 62nd Daytona 500. All other starting positions will be determined Thursday, February 13, in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel races.
However, two additional drivers know they will be in the “Great American Race” via their qualifying speed.
Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan were two of the seven drivers attempting to qualify for the race who do not have a charter. Haley and Gaughan were the fastest of the open cars and have earned a starting spot in the Daytona 500.
JJ Yeley, Chad Finchum, Reed Sorenson, Timmy Hill, and Daniel Suarez will compete for the final three spots in the Duel races.