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Bowman, Byron on Daytona 500 front row

by The Associated. Press | February 11, 2021 at 2:22 a.m.
Driver Bubba Wallace hit 199.747 mph Wednesday to have the top speed in Daytona 500 practice, then hit 189.577 mph in the qualifying session. (AP/John Raoux)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Hendrick Motorsports once again dominated Daytona 500 qualifying with a sweep of the front row for its 14th pole and sixth in the past seven years.

Alex Bowman posted a lap at 191.261 mph Wednesday night at Daytona International Speedway to earn the top starting spot for the second time in his career. It's the fourth consecutive year Bowman will start from the front row.

"It doesn't really have a lot to do with me -- it's a testament to these guys and everybody back at the shop at Hendrick Motorsports," Bowman said. "They work so hard on these superspeedway cars. They're beautiful when they get to the race track."

William Byron made it a Hendrick sweep with a lap at 190.219 mph. Only the front row was set Wednesday night, the first time Daytona 500 qualifying has been held at night under a condensed Speedweeks schedule.

It's the ninth consecutive year Chevrolet won the pole.

The 40-car field is determined through both the time trials and a pair of qualifying races tonight. NASCAR sold 36 charters that guarantee the owners slots in the field, which leaves eight drivers vying for four "open" spots in the Super Bowl of stock-car racing.

David Ragan and Ryan Preece earned the two berths earmarked to the fastest "open" cars Wednesday night.

Preece had a charter last year with JTG-Daugherty Racing, but the team no longer holds its rights, and there's concern the car won't attempt to make every race if it doesn't have early success.

Preece said he wasn't nervous before attempting his lap, but did panic when the qualifying session was delayed for a power issue and Preece noticed he was wearing the wrong fire suit. Preece said he ran half-a-mile before his qualifying lap to change his fire suit.

Derrike Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner and oldest driver in the field at 62, could not get his car started and did not make a qualifying lap. His car is locked into the race because it has a charter.

The No. 62 failed prequalifying inspection three times, did not get to attempt a qualifying lap and lost a crew member.

Bubba Wallace and Michael Jordan are feeling bullish about their debut in 23XI Racing headed into the race. Wallace sent Jordan to the top of the scoring pylon in the first practice session for their new team and the first overall for NASCAR in more than 300 days.

Wallace was selected as the driver in the first season of a new team that brought Jordan into NASCAR as a team owner. Wallace was fastest in the field in practice and surely impressed his new boss --- call that about 200 mph speed "Flying Jordan" -- once they meet for the first time.

"He'll be here [today], so I'll get to have the first one-on-one conversation with him, just to pick his brain, to learn more about him," Wallace said. "We all got to see a little bit of his taste and his character in 'The Last Dance.' Very competitive, I'm going to say that."

With a getting-to-know-you weekend ahead, Jordan sent Wallace "a very positive" text after practice.

Wallace hit 199.747 mph in the No. 23 Toyota for 23XI Racing to top practice and then 189.577 in the qualifying session for the Daytona 500.

Wallace's qualifying speed was enough to zip him to the top of the chart, and he stayed there until Byron bumped him out with 21 drivers remaining.

Alex Bowman hold the award flag in Victory Lane after winning the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Alex Bowman hold the award flag in Victory Lane after winning the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
In this file photo William Byron is shown during introductions for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
In this file photo William Byron is shown during introductions for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Driver Aric Almirola (10) runs during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Almirola qualified third for Sunday's race. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Driver Aric Almirola (10) runs during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Almirola qualified third for Sunday's race. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Driver William Byron (24) runs during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Byron will start in the second position for Sunday's race. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Driver William Byron (24) runs during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Byron will start in the second position for Sunday's race. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Christopher Bell waits in his garage before the start of a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Christopher Bell waits in his garage before the start of a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Denny Hamlin, left, and Kyle Busch joke around in the garages during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Denny Hamlin, left, and Kyle Busch joke around in the garages during a NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race practice session at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Driver Alex Bowman (48) kicks up sparks as he runs during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Bowman took the pole position for Sunday running of the race. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Driver Alex Bowman (48) kicks up sparks as he runs during a NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying session Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Bowman took the pole position for Sunday running of the race. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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