Chase Elliott was called upon to replace the legendary Jeff Gordon as he decided to retire and move on to FOX Sports. So far it looks like Rick Hendrick made the right choice to move Elliott up as he was one of the fastest during both practices on Saturday. Finishing fourth in the first practice was proof enough that he would possibly make his debut winning the Coors Light Pole, and what a debut it was. Elliott clocked in at 45.845 seconds and at 196.314 MPH. He also dethrones Austin Dillon as the youngest driver to win the pole at 20 years old.
Elliott beat out two-time Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth by .065 seconds putting both of them in the front row for the Great American Race. Both were followed by teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr and defending Sprint Cup Champion Kyle Busch who finished third and fourth respectively. Qualifying belonged to Hendrick and Joe Gibbs Racing as all except Kasey Kahne finished in the top 10. The biggest surprise was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who held the pole for a brief time until falling to seventh for Roush Fenway Racing.
Three drivers will be forced to start from the rear during the Can-Am Duel races on Thursday. Martin Truex Jr was not allowed to qualify after his right-side roof flap was not in compliance with NASCAR regulations. Truex was under the new five-minute notice to fix the problem before being impounded. He was scheduled to be the 28th car out of the field of 44 to attempt to qualify in the new single car format under the new charter system. Truex has a charter which will guarantee him a spot in the race on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers both failed post-qualifying inspection for track bar violations. Harvick had placed 14th and Vickers 21st in round one before both their times were disallowed. Vickers was called upon to replace Tony Stewart after being cleared by NASCAR after being sidelined last season for blood clots while with Michael Waltrip Racing. He will so far only race in the Daytona 500, with Ty Dillon possibly waiting in the wings later on in the season.
Two open drivers have guaranteed spots in the Daytona 500 after qualifying on time. Ryan Blaney posted the seventh best time in round two for Wood Brothers Racing and Matt DiBenedetto posted 24th for BK Racing. WBR was not given a charter as they had to have raced full time the last three seasons and neither had DiBendetto as he only participated in 33 races in 2015. Six others open drivers who attempted to qualify will have to race their way in in both Can-Am Duel races on Thursday.
Once the Can-Am Duels are run, the field will officially be set. Then the long wait for 58th running of the Daytona 500 will be long over.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Bryan Law