The 40-car field for the 63rd annual Daytona 500 is set, but the front row remains a question mark
A pair of Duel races held Thursday did not go well for Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron. Bowman, who won the pole for Sunday’s race, heard something in the engine in his Chevrolet that turned into a vibration in the chassis, which has the No. 48 team trying to diagnose a potential issue.
An engine change, or any unapproved adjustment before Sunday, would send Bowman to the rear of the field in the Daytona 500.
“We talked through engine diagnostics and sent some guys over pit wall who don’t normally go over the wall,” said crew chief Greg Ives. “Our Ally Racing team was able to go through some tire sets to make sure it wasn’t that. There were a lot of things you always think you are going to be prepared for until you actually go through them. I feel like we did a good job understanding it, and hopefully, we are able to diagnose it and make sure everything is good.”
Byron was collected in a wreck in his Duel race, making his No. 24 Chevrolet no longer usable. Byron will go to a backup car and, as a result, will have to drop to the rear of the field Sunday afternoon.
By winning the first Duel race, Aric Almirola starts third in the Daytona 500. Austin Dillon, who won the second Duel race, starts fourth.
Three drivers are making their first starts in the Daytona 500. Chase Briscoe was due to start 30th for his Cup Series debut, but tweeted Friday that he too is switching to a backup. Anthony Alfredo will start his first Cup race in 36th. Kaz Grala, who is making his Daytona 500 debut but second start in the series, starts 40th.
Cole Custer was involved in an accident at the end of the first Duel, while seven drivers were involved in accidents in the second race. Decisions are still to be made as to who repairs their car and who will need a backup, and teams do not get back on track until Saturday for practice.
Teams who have already made quick decisions about backup cars include Stewart-Haas Racing for Custer and Chip Ganassi Racing for Ross Chastain. Like Byron, they too will have to drop to the rear of the field.