Joey Logano shakes things up with Daytona 500 pole

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 14: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, (R) winner of the Daytona 500 pole award and Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, Front Row second fastest winner pose for a photo during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Joey Logano showed his speed on Wednesday night, grabbing the pole for the Daytona 500 by seven hundredths of a second.

It’s the first time a Ford has sat on the pole for the Great American Race since 2012. Logano leads a front-row lockout for the Blue Ovals as Michael McDowell will start the race to his outside.

That’s significant, too, since this is the first official race for the new Mustang Dark Horse since it debuted on track in the Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race.

“This is all about the team,” Logano said. “Honestly, I’d like to take credit but I can’t today. The guys have done such an amazing job working on these cars.

This superspeedway qualifying is 100 percent the car. There’s only so much the driver can do, so I’m really proud of them. That’s a big win for our team, for everyone at Team Penske, Ford with the new Dark Horse Mustang.”

It’s the first Daytona 500 pole award ever for Roger Penske and his Team Penske organization.

“It’s obviously something really special,” Logano admitted. “There is more pride taken as a team for winning the Daytona 500 pole than any other pole in the season because of the amount of effort that goes in all winter long working on this race car. It’s nice to see that there’s a lot of speed there and it’s a pretty special moment for everyone at Team Penske and everybody back at the shop, Roush Yates building our engines. This is a real big team moment.”

Michael McDowell takes questions at Daytona Media Day. (Photo: Greg Engle

Michael McDowell completely changed his career by winning the Daytona 500 in 2021, scoring his first-ever win in NASCAR’s biggest race after more than a decade in the Cup Series. He and his Front Row Motorsports team went on to take that momentum and win once again last season at the Indianapolis Road Course. So, a front-row lock-in at this race is especially significant.

“The feeling is awesome,” McDowell said. “This is the best that we have ever qualified down here. We’ve always had fast Ford Mustangs, but we really put an emphasis on seeing how much speed we could get out of it.

“A pole is something that is on the bucket list this year to try and get done. I don’t have a Cup Series pole, so I thought we had a good shot at that one. Obviously, Joey got us there, but two Dark Horse Mustangs on the front row for the Daytona 500 is awesome.”

The strong run by the Fords ends a dominant streak for Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports in Daytona qualifying. In fact, while three of their drivers posted one of the ten fastest times on track to at least advance to the second round of qualifying, Alex Bowman failed to. That ends his streak of six front-row finishes in a row for the race.

The ‘open’ car of and Carson Hocevar (No. 77) sits in the garage at Daytona International Speedway prior to qualifying. (Photo: Greg Engle

For most of the field, qualifying just set the front row, but for a few drivers it was the difference between a good night’s sleep and worries for tomorrow. There are not enough spots for non-chartered ‘open’ cars in the field this year, so those that weren’t fast enough to lock in on speed in qualifying will have to avoid possible carnage in the Duel qualifying races.

Six open cars have entered the race this year. Anthony Alfredo, David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, Kaz Grala, JJ Yeley, and BJ McLeod vied for just four spots. Alfredo and Ragan guaranteed their place in the field by being the top two qualifiers, while the rest will have to secure their spots in the Duels.

Ragan is driving the No. 60 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing as part of the team’s new Stage 60 program. Ragan is a past winner at Daytona and Talladega, though he’s never found victory lane in the Daytona 500 despite nearly winning in 2011. He’ll have another chance on Sunday.

“I have to really take my hat off to everyone at RFK Racing that helped to put this thing together,” said Ragan. “We are thrilled to be locked in on speed.

“I’m really proud of the RFK team and I have to thank, Jack Roush and Brad Keselowski for giving me the chance to come down here and have a shot at winning the Daytona 500.”

Jimmie Johnson holds a press event at Daytona Media Day. (Photo: Greg Engle

On the other hand, two wins in the record books didn’t help Jimmie Johnson much in qualifying as he failed to put down a fast enough lap. In fairness, just two Toyotas, including teammate Erik Jones, finished above Alfredo in position to advance, so switching his Legacy Motor Club team from Chevrolet to Toyota this year might not have helped Johnson’s qualifying hopes.

“I had higher expectations for sure, but we are lumped right there with the other Toyotas,” he explained. “The 43 car got a little more out of it, so I wish we had a bit more out of ours, but it is what it is. We will go out and race hard tomorrow night and try to make the 500.”

As for his approach, Johnson admitted that he’s definitely more nervous now.

“I’ve never been in this position, so I don’t know. I came down here mentally prepared to race my way in if that was required. I’m well studied. I spent a lot of time working on the environment of the Duels and the way the race will unfold. Just get out there and race hard and see how it unfolds.”

Alfredo, Ragan, and the rest of the full-time field can rest easy knowing that they have a guaranteed spot in the race, but their starting spots will be determined by the Bluegreen Vacations Duels, two 60-lap races to set the field. Like any race on track at Daytona, those can be unpredictable and chaotic.

At a drafting track like Daytona where most of the field will stick together in one tight pack, the biggest advantage of a good qualifying run might be pit selection. But for two cars, that’s off the table.

Tyler Reddick and Alex Bowman both failed inspection twice after qualifying. That means both will lose their car chief and pit selection for the Duels.

The Bluegreen Vacation Duels will begin at 7 pm ET on Thursday night on FS1 to set the rest of the field.

2024 Daytona 500 Qualifying – FULL RESULTS

Duel Lineup 1

Duel Lineup 2

Owen Johnson