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Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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Statistically Speaking

Daytona 500 Qualification Report

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: February 9, 2020, 2:56 pm ET

Time trials for the Daytona 500 doesn’t mean much – unless a driver sits on the front row or is one of the two fastest performers among the non-chartered teams. Then, it’s nearly everything.

With a lap of 194.582 mph Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his Cup debut with a new team at the head of the pack – assuming he does not crash in practice or his Bluegreen Vacations 150 qualification race and is forced to roll out a backup.

Winning the Daytona 500 pole has added significance for Stenhouse. After being surprised with his release from Roush Fenway Racing late in 2019, he undoubtedly feels like he has something to prove. The aero-restricted superspeedway is a good place to make his point because he has always been strong on this track type.

This is Stenhouse’s first pole at Daytona, but he has a history of starting near the front. Five of his last seven attempts there began on the first five rows. His best starting position of fourth in July 2016 ended in a fifth-place result; his first and so far only Daytona win came the next year after he started sixth. Unfortunately, Stenhouse has been involved in a lot of accidents recently and finished outside of the top 10 in last year’s 500.


Stenhouse has Hendrick Motorsports power under the hood, which should make a difference when trying to suck up in the draft.

Alex Bowman is the only other driver who knows precisely where he will start next week – given the same caveats as Stenhouse. This is the fifth consecutive race for which he has started on the front row. Despite his strong qualifications, he has only one top-10 in that span. Bowman finished 10th in the 2018 Coke Zero 400.

Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson posted the third and fourth fastest times, giving Hendrick Motorsports power a sweep of the top four spots, but their starting position will be determined by how they finish in the qualification races.

Denny Hamlin had the fastest Toyota in fifth.

Aric Almirola had the fastest Ford in seventh.

Christopher Bell was the fastest among the rookie class. His speed of 192.234 mph was the ninth-best overall. He is one of the chartered entries, however, and knows he will be part of the 2020 Great American Race.

Seven other drivers were not so sure entering the weekend. That number was whittled down to five after time trials.

Last year’s Coke Zero 400 winner Justin Haley posted the fastest time among the unchartered teams. Even if something happens to his primary car in the qualification races, he knows he will be part of the show with a speed of 190.018 mph.

Brendan Gaughan is making his final Daytona 500 appearance and was sweating bullets during qualification because his speed was remarkably slower on Sunday than in practice. He had a lap of 188.945 mph and became the second fastest non-chartered driver. Gaughan will attempt all four superspeedway races.

Reed Sorenson in the #27, Timmy Hill (#66), Daniel Suarez (#96), JJ Yeley (#54), and Chad Finchum (#49) need to race their way into the show. Only one driver will advance from each race.

Top-10 starters, last two races at this track:

 

2019 Daytona 500

Driver

Finish

Start

William Byron

21

1

Alex Bowman

11

2

Kevin Harvick

26

3

Joey Logano

4

4

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13

5

Clint Bowyer

20

6

Paul Menard

29

7

Aric Almirola

32

8

Matt DiBenedetto

28

9

Denny Hamlin

1

10

 

 

 

Kyle Busch

2

31

Erik Jones

3

28

Michael McDowell

5

34

Ty Dillon

6

22

Kyle Larson

7

26

Ryan Preece

8

21

Jimmie Johnson

9

17

Ross Chastain

10

36

 

 

2019 Coke Zero 400
(rain-shortened)

Driver

Finish

Start

Joey Logano

25

1

Kyle Busch

14

2

Brad Keselowski

39

3

Kevin Harvick

29

4

Martin Truex Jr.

22

5

Denny Hamlin

26

6

Chase Elliott

35

7

Kurt Busch

10

8

Alex Bowman

21

9

Ryan Blaney

36

10

 

Justin Haley

1

34

William Byron

2

12

Jimmie Johnson

3

14

Ty Dillon

4

23

Ryan Newman

5

18

Corey LaJoie

6

30

Aric Almirola

7

11

Matt DiBenedetto

8

25

Matt Tifft

9

31

 

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Dan Beaver
Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.