Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chase Elliott earns Daytona 500 pole at age 20

DAYTONA BEACH — Chase Elliott was too young to really remember celebrating in Victory Lane with his father, dressed in a shirt that matched Bill Elliott's firesuit and a little finger pointed toward the sky because daddy was No. 1.

But here's a father-son snapshot Chase can savor forever: "Awesome Bill" waiting with a big embrace Sunday at Daytona International Speedway for the son who proved he's capable of following in some Hall of Fame footsteps.

Elliott kept the No. 24 Chevrolet on the pole for the second straight Daytona 500, with the rookie becoming the youngest driver to land the top spot in NASCAR's biggest race.

"I don't know if this opportunity has sunk in yet, much less sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500," Elliott said.

The 20-year-old has the ride of a lifetime, taking the seat from retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon, last year's pole-sitter for the 500, was in the broadcast booth at Daytona, calling the shots on Fox as the No. 24 went around the track without him for the first time since 1992.

Elliott has some practice following the great ones: Bill Elliott is a two-time Daytona 500 champion.

Elliott's top speed around the 2.5-mile superspeedway was 196.314 mph as he outran 43 others in front-row qualifying Sunday. He also showed that Hendrick could contend again after taking a backseat to Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske in 2015.

Nonetheless, the Gibbs cars continued their strong opening to Speedweeks by putting Matt Kenseth on the front row for next Sunday's 500. That came on the heels of Denny Hamlin's victory in Saturday's exhibition, the Sprint Unlimited, and Kyle Busch's 2015 Sprint Cup title.

Busch was fourth in Sunday's time trials, with Carl Edwards ninth and Hamlin 10th.

But Gibbs cares little about the buildup to the season opener. Year after year, his drivers prove to be the best of the bunch during Speedweeks but come up empty in the main event. He reminded Hamlin of that Saturday night in Victory Lane.

"I said, 'Try and get us a 500, will you?' " Gibbs said. "It's been 23 years since we were able to win one."

JGR won its only Daytona 500 in 1993 with Dale Jarrett.

Elliott won the pole at 20 years, 2 months and 17 days, besting 2014 pole-sitter Austin Dillon's mark of 23 years, 9 months and 27 days.

Gordon already sounded like a seasoned pro in the broadcast booth, asking his replacement how he could keep his momentum headed into "The Great American Race." Gordon was a three-time Daytona 500 winner and earned two poles in the No. 24. Elliott's speed earned team owner Rick Hendrick his 10th overall pole in the Daytona 500.

The rest of the Daytona 500 field will be set in Thursday's two qualifying races.

Wood Brothers driver Ryan Blaney and BK Racing's Matt DiBenedetto secured spots in next weekend's race as the two fastest drivers outside of NASCAR's new charter system, which guarantees 36 cars a starting spot in each race.

Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Kevin Harvick had non-compliant track bars, according to NASCAR, and had their qualifying times disallowed. They will start at the rear of the field in Thursday's duel races. So will Martin Truex — he did not make an attempt because a roof flap of his No. 78 Toyota was out of compliance, and the Furniture Row Racing team could not fix it in time.

How the field is set The procedure for setting the field for Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway:

> The pole qualifying that took place Sunday only set the spots in the front row — pole-sitter Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.

> Thursday's two 150-mile qualifying races will determine the rest of the order for the 500. New this year is the field size: 40 cars as opposed to 43 in the past.

> Another major change is the charter system which NASCAR introduced last week. The charters guarantee spots for 36 cars, so only four spots are open to cars without charters.

> Each of the fields for the two duel races will be split between chartered and non-chartered (or open) teams. The top open finisher in each duel will qualify for the 500, and the final two spots will be determined by qualifying speeds. Ryan Blaney and Matt DiBenedetto had the top two qualifying speeds among open cars, so they have clinched spots for the 500. The running order in the duels will determine the starting order for rows 2-20 in the 500.

Speedweeks schedule


5: Sprint Cup practice, FS1

6:10: Sprint Cup practice, FS1


Noon: Sprint Cup final practice for Duels, FS1

1:30: Trucks practice, FS1

4: Trucks final practice, FS1

7: Sprint Cup Duel No. 1 (60 laps, 150 miles), FS1

9: Sprint Cup Duel No. 2 (60 laps, 150 miles), FS1


10:30 a.m.: Xfinity practice, FS1

Noon: Sprint Cup practice, FS1

1: Xfinity practice, FS1

2: Sprint Cup practice, FS1

3: Xfinity final practice, FS1

4:30: Trucks qualifying, FS1

7:30: Trucks race, NextEra Energy Resources 250 (100 laps, 250 miles), FS1


10 a.m.: Xfinity qualifying, FS1

12:15 p.m.: Sprint Cup final practice for Daytona 500, FS1

3:30: Xfinity race, PowerShares QQQ 300 (120 laps, 300 miles), FS1


1: Sprint Cup Daytona 500 (200 laps, 500 miles), Ch. 13

Chase Elliott earns Daytona 500 pole at age 20 02/14/16 [Last modified: Sunday, February 14, 2016 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant in 10-inning victory

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and working eight strong innings overall in a 4-2 10-inning victory over the Pirates.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better as the season goes on, which could make the Rays' decision whether to trade the free-agent-to-be tougher and tougher. He was efficient and effective, rolling through six no-hit innings and eight total.

  3. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  4. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park, Pittsburgh

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Rays sign first-round pick Brendan McKay to record bonus

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — Determining whether top draft pick Brendan McKay will be more productive as a pitcher or a hitter or can handle the demands of doing both professionally will be a long endeavor that could take years.

    Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay  connects for a grand slam home run during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament against Notre Dame in May in Louisville, Ky. [Timothy D. Easley/ via AP]