Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jeff Gordon Wins 2015 Daytona 500 Pole Position

In his final Daytona 500 start, Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the green flag as the four-time champion won pole position for the 57th Daytona 500. This is the second Daytona 500 pole position of his career and 78th of his career, good enough for third all-time. Gordon started on pole position in the 1999 Daytona 500 and led 17 laps on his way to victory.

This was the first time pole position for The Great American Race was determined by knockout qualifying and Gordon laid down the fastest lap in the final round at 44.711 seconds (201.293 MPH). Gordon is the first driver to win the Daytona 500 pole position with an average speed over 200 MPH since Bill Elliott set the track record of 210.364 MPH in 1987. This is only the fifth time the Daytona 500 pole-sitter has broken the 200 MPH barrier.

Jimmie Johnson qualified second and will start on pole in the second qualifying race. This is Johnson's fourth career Daytona 500 front-row start. Gordon and Johnson are locked in the field.

The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five in the final round of qualifying. Hamlin and Kenseth will start second in the first and second qualifying races respectively. Busch will start third in the first race. Kasey Kahne made it three Hendrick cars in the top six and will start third in race two. Carl Edwards was seventh fastest in his first qualifying session with Joe Gibbs Racing. He will start fourth in race one while Ty Dillon will start fourth in race two as Ty Dillon looks to make his Daytona 500 debut. 

Austin Dillon was ninth quickest in qualifying and will start fifth in race one. Last year's Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified tenth and starts fifth in race two. Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex, Jr. were the slowest two drivers in the final round of qualifying and will each start sixth in their respective qualifying race. Edwards and McMurray are each locked into the field based on their qualifying speed. They will set their starting position for the Daytona 500 in their respective qualifying races.

Update (6:58 p.m. ET): The cars for Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. failed post-race inspection. They will start at the back of the field for their respective qualifying race on Thursday. 

Race One Grid:
Johnny Sauter will start a surprising seventh in race one driving for BK Racing. He will be join by 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne on row four. Rounding out the top ten for race one will be Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski. Almirola was the fastest qualifier on Sunday with a lap average of 202.370 MPH in group B of round one. Almirola is locked in by his time but his starting position will be determined in his qualifying race. 

Joey Logano starts 11th in race one and BK Racing's J.J. Yeley joins the Penske driver on row six. Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger will start on row seven. Defending champion Kevin Harvick rounds out the top fifteen. His Stewart Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart joins him on row eight. Casey Mears and Michael Annett will start on row nine as Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell round out the top twenty. 

Clint Bowyer is slated to start 21st but will go to a back up car after getting into an accident in group A's session of round one. Justin Marks starts 22nd as he looks to make his Daytona 500 debut. Cole Whitt, Landon Cassill and Ron Hornaday, Jr. round out the race one grid. 

Race Two Grid:
Greg Biffle will start seventh with Sam Hornish, Jr. making it an all-Ford row four. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ended up ninth. He ran the second-fastest lap during all of qualifying and is locked in by speed. The Mississippian will set his starting position in his qualifying race. Ryan Blaney starts tenth in his first career Daytona 500 qualifying race. 

The average age of row six is 50.5 years as two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip is joined by 2000 Cup Champion Bobby Labonte. Alex Bowman will line-up 13th in race two. Ryan Newman is slated to join Bowman on row seven but will go to the back of the field after an engine change prior to qualifying. Just like in race one, Stewart Haas Racing teammates lock out row eight with Kurt Busch on the inside and Danica Patrick on the outside. 

Brian Scott and Justin Allgaier start on row nine while David Gilliand and Jeb Burton round out the top twenty in race two. Reed Sorenson was scheduled to start 21st but after being in that accident with Bowyer in qualifying, the Georgian will drop the back of the field. David Ragan will start 22nd. Rounding out race two are Josh Wise and Mike Wallace.

The Budweiser Duels are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday. The races can be seen on Fox Sports 1. The top fifteen in each qualifying race will set rows two through sixteen on the Daytona 500 starting grid. Rows seventeen and eighteen will be set by the fastest four drivers from qualifying who did not finish in the top fifteen in the two qualifying races. The final seven positions will be set by provisionals.