While the main talk right now is of the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona (3 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for this weekend’s race, another big part of Daytona Speedweeks will take place this weekend too. Qualifying to set the front row for next Sunday’s 60th annual Daytona 500 as well as set the starting lineup for the Can Am Duels next Thursday night will directly take place preceding the Clash on Sunday afternoon.
With that being said, who are the favorites to land on the pole?
To me, you can’t go wrong with picking a Chevrolet driver.
Chevrolet had a struggling season last year, that’s not a secret. When they sat back and saw what the Toyota’s did with their new Camry in 2017, that sparked Chevy officials to bring out a new car themselves for the 2018 season.
Gone is the old SS and in is a Camaro. That has led to a lot of hype around the Chevy camp this offseason, as most are saying that they expect and have seen vast improvements of speed and handling on this new car for 2018.
At the test last week in Las Vegas, Chevrolet cars dominated every session. They were the class of the test. But, after all, it was just that, a test. How much stock could we really put into it?
Well, Sunday on the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway, we will see who has the most horsepower. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is a bragging rights for the teams. There’s not much the driver can do to gain speed in the race car itself. Really, the only thing the drivers can do, is try to hold a steady wheel, because while they can’t gain much time, they could lose it. So, with the inspection process going to even up the cars a lot more, qualifying at Daytona is going to be even more based on pure horsepower.
Chevy, has shown that they have had that over the last several years in Daytona.
Chevy drivers have won the last five Daytona 500 poles. In fact, Hendrick Motorsports and the No. 24 Chevrolet has won three straight. Jeff Gordon won the pole for his final Daytona 500 start in 2015, while Chase Elliott has won the last two, the first of which as a rookie. Now, Elliott has changed his number to No. 9 and rookie William Byron is in the No. 24 Chevrolet instead. Can Elliott win his third straight Daytona 500 pole, being the first driver since Kenny Schrader (1988-1990) and his dad Bill (1985-1987) to accomplish that feat, or can Byron make it four straight for the No. 24?
Rookies Danica Patrick (2013) and Austin Dillon (2014) each won the pole for the Great American Race before the recent Hendrick domination to make this a strong feat for the bowties. Count those two with Elliott’s pole in 2016, and you’d see rookies have won three of the last five Daytona 500 pole awards.
But, if you go back even further, Carl Edwards is the only non Chevy driver to win the Daytona 500 pole since 2008. Go back to 2006, and you’d see Chevy drivers have won 10 of the last 12 Daytona 500 poles. The only two drivers to not be a part of the Chevy camp is Edwards (2012) and David Gilliland (2007) of the Ford camp.
Toyota has never had a Daytona 500 pole winner.
So, looking to pick a Daytona 500 pole winner, you may want to consider someone from the Chevy camp.