By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service, Feb. 14, 2016) —
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott‘s rookie campaign just got a jump-start.
Faced with the daunting prospect of succeeding Jeff Gordon in the No. 24Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, the 20-year-old Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate drove the same chassis to the same result Gordon accomplished last year—the pole position for the Feb. 21 Daytona 500 (on FOX at 1 p.m. ET).
In the money round of qualifying for the Great American Race, Elliott toured 2.5-mileDaytona International Speedway in 45.845 seconds (196.314 mph), edgingMatt Kenseth (196.036 mph) by .065 seconds for the top starting spot in the NASCARSprint Cup Series opener.
Elliott and Kenseth are the only drivers whose positions for the Daytona 500 are now locked in. The balance of the field will be filled and ordered in Thursday night’s 150-mile Can-Am Duel qualifying races.
“I’ve never qualified on the front row here before, so that certainly takes off some pressure for later in the week,” Kenseth said.
“This is a very, very cool day,” Elliott said after Earnhardt, the last qualifier, failed to knock him off the pole. “I don’t know that this opportunity has sunk in yet, much less sitting on the pole for the Daytona 500.
“So this is very cool. I think the big thing is just the team and the Daytona 500qualifying is about the team guys and the effort they put into these cars and it’s nothing special I did. It’s really what kind of work they did this offseason to make it happen.
“Jeff (Gordon) knows all about that and I just wanted to give a big thanks to NAPA Auto Parts and all of our partners at HMS on this No. 24 car. This is very special and a great way to start the season.”
Read more at NASCAR.com.