A few months ago, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was booted out of his ride of six years at Roush-Fenway Racing. He spent the final months of the 2019 season as a lame duck. In a somewhat odd twist, Stenhouse took over the seat at JTG Daugherty Racing vacated by Chris Buescher who took over Stenhouse’s ride at Roush.
Sunday, Stenhouse rewarded his new team with his, and the team’s first Daytona 500 pole.
“It feels way different than the Chevy Camaro that they ran last year,” Stenhouse quipped. “I’m just kidding. I don’t know.”
“It’s the best driving Camaro I’ve ever driven.”
He will be joined on the front row by Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman.
“They call me “Bad Luck” Bowman, right, so the wind got me,” Bowman said. But who knows? I mean, they may have just had a faster car, and it may have just looked like that.”
“I’m not frustrated at all. We’re on the front row for the Daytona 500.”
The Bowtie brand will lead the field to the green for NASCAR’s biggest race for the seventh time in a row. But for the first time since 2014 it won’t be a Hendrick Motorsports driver behind the wheel. The JTG team does have a technical alliance with Hendrick and a Hendrick engine under the hood.
Buescher in Stenhouse’s old car, qualified 19th. The only two spots locked in for the 500 are the front row, the rest of the lineup will be determined after the Duel Qualifying races Thursday.
Stenhouse went out 18th out of 43 cars and was forced to wait to secure the third pole of his career.
The biggest drama beyond the pole was the duel for the final spot to be locked in on speed. That final spot went to Brendan Gaughan who is only making two starts this season, at Daytona and Talladega, in his final season. Gaughan had to watch Daniel Suarez make his run then could loosen up somewhat knowing he was locked into next Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“I can relax and have a good time the next couple of days, and come back and get ready for the 500,” Gaughan said.
Suarez in his first start with Gaunt Brothers Racing. Suarez, who was released from Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of 2019, came up short and will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 field in the qualifying races Thursday. He will be vying for the spot with Chad Finchum and Reed Sorenson.
“We have to race hard,” Suarez said. “We knew that we would have a lot of challenges and that we didn’t also have the raw speed, but I know what I can do. I just have to go out there – what is it Wednesday, no Thursday – Thursday and get it done.”
Behind Bowman Hendrick drivers Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson will start third and fourth with Denny Hamlin the highest starting Toyota in fifth. The fourth Hendrick driver, William Byron qualified eighth.
At the end of the day Sunday, Stenhouse wasn’t focusing on the past, but looking forward.
“Touring the Hendrick engine shop, they were pumped-up for me to switch over into their horsepower,” Stenhouse said. “So, this goes to a lot of people that work hard behind the scenes for me to come out here and drive. It’s a cool way to start Speedweeks.”
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 62nd Annual DAYTONA 500
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
Sunday, February 9, 2020
1. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 194.582 mph.
2. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 194.363 mph.
3. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 194.305 mph.
4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 193.886 mph.
5. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 193.432 mph.
6. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 192.876 mph.
7. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 192.588 mph.
8. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 192.443 mph.
9. (95) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 192.234 mph.
10. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 192.066 mph.
11. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 192.033 mph.
12. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 192.025 mph.
13. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 191.873 mph.
14. (41) Cole Custer #, Ford, 191.812 mph.
15. (6) Ryan Newman, Ford, 191.693 mph.
16. (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 191.685 mph.
17. (37) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 191.616 mph.
18. (8) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 191.559 mph.
19. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 191.555 mph.
20. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 191.542 mph.
21. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 191.514 mph.
22. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 191.278 mph.
23. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 191.270 mph.
24. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 191.205 mph.
25. (38) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 191.180 mph.
26. (36) David Ragan, Ford, 190.876 mph.
27. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 190.658 mph.
28. (77) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 190.428 mph.
29. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 190.384 mph.
30. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 190.062 mph.
31. (16) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 190.018 mph.
32. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 189.510 mph.
33. (62) Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, 188.945 mph.
34. (27) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 187.356 mph.
35. (66) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 186.625 mph.
36. (96) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 185.479 mph.
37. (32) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 185.166 mph.
38. (00) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 183.887 mph.
39. (54) JJ Yeley, Ford, 183.292 mph.
40. (15) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 181.781 mph.
3 drivers failed to qualify.
41. (49) Chad Finchum, Toyota, 181.763 mph.
42. (51) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 179.756 mph.
43. (52) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 0.000 mph.