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List of Daytona 500 pole position winners

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson waves to fans
Jimmie Johnson won the pole position for the Daytona 500 in 2002 and 2008

Daytona 500 pole position winners for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series's Daytona 500 are rewarded with being the driver to lead the field across the start line at the beginning of the 200-lap 500-mile (800 km) race. Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 is held one weekend before the race at the Daytona International Speedway. The driver to complete the fastest single lap in the final of three rounds in the knockout qualifying session around the 2.5-mile (4.0 km) high-banked tri-oval superspeedway earns the pole position. The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959 and in 1982, it became the opening event for the NASCAR Cup season.[1] The term "pole position" was originally coined in the American horse racing industry, and indicated the position of the starter being next to the "poles", which established the boundaries of the course.[2] The two drivers who complete a lap with the fastest time are awarded the first and second starting positions for the Daytona 500. An additional 33 to 35 entrants are determined by a combination of the results of two qualifying races and the position of the team in the previous season's point rankings. The remainder of the 43 car field consists of drivers who meet certain qualifications, such as qualifying speed or being one of the previous NASCAR champions.[1]

Bill Elliott set the pole position qualifying record on February 9, 1987 when he navigated around the circuit with a 42.782-second lap, which is an average speed of 210.364 miles per hour (338.548 km/h).[3] From 1988 to 2018, NASCAR required teams to install a restrictor plate between the throttle body and the engine. This rule was enacted as an effort to slow the cars speed in response to an accident in which fans suffered minor injuries when Bobby Allison's car blew a tire and crashed at over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) during a race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1987.[4] Depending upon the sponsor, era, or a specific year, the qualifying races have been referred to as the "Duels" or the "Twins".[5]


Track layout

The qualifying session for pole position is held before the Daytona 500. Drivers take one timed lap to determine their time. The fastest qualifier takes the pole position for the Daytona 500 and starts on the inside of the first row; the second fastest starts alongside him on the outside, referred to as the "outside pole."[6] Both front row starters are locked into these starting positions.[6]

The 2015 race used the standard knockout qualifying system. Up to the 2014 race, drivers took two timed laps, and the better of the two timed laps was the driver's lap for purposes of Daytona 500 qualifying. Until 2001, NASCAR offered a second (and at times, a third) round of qualifying for teams who wished to improve their qualifying times. Drivers and teams decided if they were content with their first attempt, and "stood on their time", or if they wanted to improve their chances by attempting a "second-round qualifying" attempt. If satisfied with the original attempt, the team was required to notify NASCAR within five minutes of the final practice sessions, and before the beginning of the "second-round qualifying" attempts. Drivers who made second-round attempts started behind first-round only drivers; however, the qualifying times were crucial, since it determined a driver's fall back time should he fail to finish in the top 14 of the qualifying races. The strategy was usually done by drivers whose times would not make the race or be on the bubble.[7] The second round of qualifying ended in 2001.[8]

The two fastest drivers in the final qualifying session (the Daytona 500 pole winner and the "outside" pole winner) only are also awarded the pole positions for the two qualifying races held the following Thursday. Drivers are ranked by the furthest number of rounds advanced in qualifying, and then their qualifying time in the final round that they reached. Those who rank with an odd-numbered position are assigned to the first qualifying race, and those with an even-numbered rank to the second race. Cars in the final round of qualifying start the race in the front.[9] The starting spots for the third through 32nd positions are determined by the drivers' finishing position in the qualifying races, with only the top 15 drivers' results, excluding the pole sitter in each race, advancing to the feature.[10] Since 2005, each of the two qualifying races is 150-mile (240 km) long, or 60 laps. From its inception in 1959 until 1967, it was 40 laps, and from 1969 to 2004 it was 50 laps.[11] After the races, the top four drivers in speed of those that failed to advance through the qualifying race are positioned in positions 33-36. The speeds used for this does not reflect their official qualifying times; regardless of which qualifying round they reached, their time used is the fastest time set in any round (first, second, or third), and does not reflect their starting position in the Duels. Positions 37-42 will go to the top six teams (not drivers) in points from the previous year's owners (team) points standings of teams not already qualified, again with their positions based on speed, again based on the fastest time in any round, not in the final round that they reached. The final starting position in the Daytona 500 (43rd overall) is reserved by NASCAR to allow one former NASCAR champion to start the race under the "champion's provisional" rule. Also known as the "Petty Rule", this rule was established in 1989 when NASCAR's winningest driver (Richard Petty) failed to qualify for an event at Richmond International Raceway.[12] If the Champion's Provisional is not necessary, the seventh-highest team in the previous year's points advances, and positions 37-43 are positioned based on speed from their fastest round of qualifying.

From 2005 until 2012, NASCAR adopted an "All Exempt Tour" format similar to golf. The teams in the top 35 of owner points during the previous season would be eligible to run in the Daytona 500, regardless of qualifying speed.[13] The qualifying races now determine the relative starting position for these 35 drivers plus the starting positions for an additional seven to eight teams.[14] The top 35 drivers, plus two non-top 35 drivers from each qualifier, start in the first 39 positions of the 500.[14] The 40th, 41st, and 42nd starting positions are given to the fastest three non-exempt cars based on qualifying speed, which have not already qualified.[14] The 43rd starting position is awarded to the most recent previous NASCAR champion who attempted to qualify; it is given to the fastest car that hadn't qualified if all previous champions qualified into the field.[14] In 2008, the qualifying competition became known as the "Coors Light Pole" when Coors replaced Budweiser as the primary sponsor.[15] Budweiser's parent company, Anheuser Busch Corporation, had been sponsoring the race since 1979.[15]


In early years, qualifying had varying formats: from one timed lap, to the average of two laps, to the better of two laps. The idea of having two individual races to establish the starting lineup of the Daytona 500 dates back to the first race in 1959.[16] That event, advertised as "the 500 Mile NASCAR International Sweepstakes",[17] featured cars from NASCAR's Grand National (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) division racing against cars in the Convertible division.[16] The first of the 100-mile (160 km) qualifying races consisted of Convertible division cars and the second of Grand National cars.[16] Shorty Rollins won the 100-mile Convertible race to become the track's first winner.[18] When the green flag was thrown on the first Daytona 500, 59 cars raced to the starting line; the event was held without a caution period during the entire race.[17] In 1960 (incidentally, the first ever national telecast of a NASCAR race), the last chance race was eliminated; from 1960 through 1967 the qualifying events were 100 miles (160 km) in length.[15] When the season opened in 1968, the qualifying races were increased to 125 miles (201 km),[15] which meant the drivers would have to make at least one pit-stop to refuel (though the races were not held because of weather in 1968). Prior to 1971, the qualifying races yielded points to the drivers' championship.[19]

The 12-mile-per-hour (19 km/h) reduction in speed for the 1971 qualification was a result of NASCAR's effort to limit the increasing speeds achieved through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Engine size and technology, along with increased aerodynamic styling changes,[20] brought speeds to over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) at some of the larger superspeedways.[21] In an effort to reduce the escalating costs of developing faster racing equipment, increased horsepower, and the lack of parity in competition, NASCAR implemented several restrictions for the 1971 season,[20][22] attempting to reduce speed by two methods. It experimented with restrictor plates for the first time at Michigan in August 1970.[23] At the beginning of the 1971 season, NASCAR limited an engine's cubic inch displacement.[20] The reductions had the effect of reducing costs for teams, but also limiting the horsepower and top speeds of NASCAR teams.[21] At the time, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. stated:

Special cars, including the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler, Ford Talladega, Dodge Daytona, Dodge Charger 500, and Plymouth Superbird shall be limited to a maximum engine size of 305 cubic inches.

— Bill France Sr., [22]

Corporate sponsors purchased naming rights to qualifying races; between 1982 and 1984, Uno cards was the title sponsor for the "Uno Twin 125's" qualifying events. In 1985 they became known as "7-Eleven Twin 125's"; no sponsors funded the 1988 and 1989 qualifying events and the races were called "Daytona Twin Qualifiers". Gatorade became the sponsor of the dual qualifying events in 1991. In 2005, the event was increased 150 miles (240 km),[15] and became known as the "Gatorade Duels" until 2015. Starting in 2016 CanAm took over sponsorship of the races, where it stands today.[6]

Since the restrictor plate era began in 1988 until 2014, qualifying was the better single lap of two;[24] drivers are permitted one warm-up lap followed by two consecutive timed laps. Since restrictor plate cars require more time to accelerate to full speed, drivers often consider their first timed lap a "throwaway lap," and use it essentially as a second warm-up lap; and the second timed lap is usually the fastest of the three laps.[24]

In August 2009, NASCAR announced that it would reschedule the 2010 opening round of qualifying to avoid a conflict with the NFL Super Bowl.[25] The events that determine the top two starters for the Daytona 500 were rescheduled after the NFL moved the Super Bowl day one week to February 7, 2010.[26] Qualifying had originally been scheduled for February 7, but NASCAR moved the date back to Saturday, February 6, to avoid conflict with the NFL. Daytona Speedway president, Robin Braig, stated:

We're excited about the new schedule, [...] By moving Daytona 500 qualifying to Saturday, we are now providing even more value to our race fans. (They) can now enjoy a unique racing triple-header as well as all the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl the following day.

— Robin Braig, [27]

In 2014, NASCAR adopted, starting with the second race of the year in Phoenix, a Formula One-style knockout qualifying system. After tweaking it in the 2014 GEICO 500 at Talladega, the format became three five-minute rounds, with the first round being split as two five-minute rounds with half the field in each round. As is the case for standard knockout qualifying, the top 24 advanced to the second round, and the top 12 advancing to the final round. This format was used at the Daytona 500 for the first time in 2015, but was soon abandoned for restrictor plate races after a series of incidents taking place during qualifying.

Restrictor plate races eventually gets a new two-round qualifying format starting from the first Talladega race. In round 1, each car goes out one at a time for one warm-up, one timed, and one cool down lap. The order for the cars released was determined by a random draw. NASCAR will release the next car to begin their lap while the current car is finishing their timed lap with the goal to have the next car start their timed lap no more than 20 seconds after the previous car finishes. The top 12 cars from round 1 will make a second run in the same format to determine the starting lineup for positions 1–12, with the order of cars released are the invert of round 1 result (i.e. the 12th placed car will be released first). Positions 13th and below are determined by round 1 result.

Daytona 500 pole winnersEdit

Year of event
Car make
Restrictor plate
1959 Bob Welborn Chevrolet 140.121 mph (225.503 km/h)[29] Not yet in use Not fastest qualifier (see below); Entire lineup set by Qualifying races[30]
1960 Cotton Owens Pontiac 149.892 mph (241.228 km/h)[29] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[31]
1961 Fireball Roberts 155.709 mph (250.589 km/h)[29] Won Qualifying race[32][33]
1962 156.999 mph (252.665 km/h)[29] Won Qualifying race; won Daytona 500[34][35]
1963 160.943 mph (259.013 km/h)[29] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[36]
1964 Paul Goldsmith Plymouth 174.910 mph (281.490 km/h)[29] Track record at time (see below)
1965 Darel Dieringer Mercury 171.151 mph (275.441 km/h)[29] Also won Qualifying race
1966 Richard Petty Plymouth 175.165 mph (281.901 km/h)[29] Won Daytona 500[29]
1967 Curtis Turner Chevrolet 180.831 mph (291.019 km/h)[29]
1968 Cale Yarborough Mercury 189.222 mph (304.523 km/h)[29] Won Daytona 500[29]
1969 Buddy Baker (1) Dodge 188.901 mph (304.007 km/h)[29] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[37]
1970 Cale Yarborough (2) Mercury 194.015 mph (312.237 km/h)[29]
1971 A. J. Foyt 182.744 mph (294.098 km/h)[29]
1972 Bobby Isaac Dodge 186.632 mph (300.355 km/h)[29]
1973 Buddy Baker (2) 185.662 mph (298.794 km/h)[29]
1974 David Pearson Chevrolet 185.017 mph (297.756 km/h)[29] First season of 5900cc engine formula (358 cubic inches).
1975 Donnie Allison (1) 185.827 mph (299.060 km/h)[29]
1976 Ramo Stott 183.456 mph (295.244 km/h)[29] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[38]
1977 Donnie Allison (2) 188.048 mph (302.634 km/h)[29]
1978 Cale Yarborough (3) Oldsmobile 187.536 mph (301.810 km/h)[29]
1979 Buddy Baker (4) 196.049 mph (315.510 km/h)[29]
1980 194.099 mph (312.372 km/h)[29] Not fastest qualifier (see below); Won Daytona 500[39]
1981 Bobby Allison Pontiac 194.624 mph (313.217 km/h)[29]
1982 Benny Parsons 196.317 mph (315.942 km/h)[29]
1983 Ricky Rudd Chevrolet 198.864 mph (320.041 km/h)[29] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[40]
1984 Cale Yarborough (4) 201.848 mph (324.843 km/h)[29] Won Daytona 500[29]
1985 Bill Elliott Ford 205.114 mph (330.099 km/h)[29] Won Daytona 500[29]
1986 205.039 mph (329.978 km/h)[29]
1987 210.364 mph (338.548 km/h)[29] All-time track record;[3] Won Daytona 500[29]
1988 Ken Schrader Chevrolet 193.823 mph (311.928 km/h)[29] 1.0001 inch plate[23]
1989 196.996 mph (317.034 km/h)[29] 1.0001 inch plate[23] Also won first qualifying race[41]
1990 196.515 mph (316.260 km/h)[29] 0.937515/16 inch plate[23] Geoff Bodine started on pole (see below)[42]
1991 Davey Allison Ford 195.955 mph (315.359 km/h)[29] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23]
1992 Sterling Marlin 192.213 mph (309.337 km/h)[29] 0.8757/8 inch plate[23]
1993 Kyle Petty Pontiac 189.426 mph (304.852 km/h)[29] 0.8757/8 inch plate[23]
1994 Loy Allen, Jr. Ford 190.158 mph (306.030 km/h)[29] 0.8757/8 inch plate[23] Allen was the first rookie pole winner[43]
1995 Dale Jarrett (1) 196.498 mph (316.233 km/h)[29] 0.8757/8 inch plate[23]
1996 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet 189.510 mph (304.987 km/h)[29] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23] Compression ratio limit on engines established at 14:1.
1997 Mike Skinner 189.813 mph (305.474 km/h)[29] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23]
1998 Bobby Labonte Pontiac 192.415 mph (309.662 km/h)[29] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23] Compression ratio limit on engines reduced to 12:1.
1999 Jeff Gordon (1) Chevrolet 195.067 mph (313.930 km/h)[29] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23] Won Daytona 500[29]
2000 Dale Jarrett (2) Ford 191.091 mph (307.531 km/h)[29] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23] Won Daytona 500[29]
2001 Bill Elliott (4) Dodge 183.565 mph (295.419 km/h)[29] 0.937515/16 inch plate[23]
2002 Jimmie Johnson (1) Chevrolet 185.831 mph (299.066 km/h) 0.937515/16 inch plate[23] Johnson's rookie season, having run only three races in 2001[44]
2003 Jeff Green 186.606 mph (300.313 km/h)[45] 0.8757/8 inch plate[23]
2004 Greg Biffle Ford 188.387 mph (303.179 km/h)[46] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[23] Engine failed in final practice; Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started first and won race (see below)[47]
2005 Dale Jarrett (3) 188.312 mph (303.059 km/h)[48] 0.89062557/64 inch plate[23]
2006 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 189.151 mph (304.409 km/h)[49] 0.89062557/64 inch plate[23]
2007 David Gilliland Ford 186.320 mph (299.853 km/h)[50] 0.8757/8 inch plate[23]
2008 Jimmie Johnson (2) Chevrolet 187.075 mph (301.068 km/h)[51] 0.9687531/32 inch plate[23]
2009 Martin Truex, Jr. 188.001 mph (302.558 km/h)[52] 0.9687531/32 inch plate
2010 Mark Martin 191.188 mph (307.687 km/h) 0.98437563/64 inch plate[53] Oldest Daytona 500 pole-sitter at age of 51.
2011 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 186.089 mph (299.481 km/h)[54] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[55] Crashed in Wednesday practice; Kurt Busch, who won the first Duel, started first. First race to use fuel injection system after engine formula changed.
2012 Carl Edwards Ford 194.738 mph (313.400 km/h)[56]
2013 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 196.434 mph (316.130 km/h) First woman to win a pole in the Daytona 500 and first woman to win a pole in a Cup race.
2014 Austin Dillon 196.019 mph (315.462 km/h) First time the No. 3 car has gone to the pole in Daytona since 1996, and the first appearance for the No. 3 in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2001.
2015 Jeff Gordon (2) 201.293 mph (323.950 km/h) (Q3) Not fastest qualifier; Three-round Formula One-style group knockout qualifying used.
2016 Chase Elliott 196.314 mph (315.937 km/h) (Q2)[57] The youngest pole-sitter in 500 history at the age of 20. Indianapolis 500 style two-round qualifying system used (all cars take one round, then top 12 cars take a second round for pole).
2017 Chase Elliott (2) 192.872 mph (310.397 km/h) (Q2)[58] Second consecutive pole for Elliott and third consecutive for crew chief Alan Gustafson.
2018 Alex Bowman 195.644 mph (314.858 km/h) Fourth consecutive pole for Hendrick Motorsports
2019 William Byron 194.305 mph (312.704 km/h) Fifth consecutive pole for Hendrick Motorsports


Curtis Turner's 1967 pole qualifying car
David Pearson, 1974 pole winner
Ricky Rudd, 1983 pole position winner
Dale Jarrett's 2000 pole & race winning car
  • 1959: Cotton Owens (143.198 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[29]
  • 1960: Fireball Roberts (151.556 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[31]
  • 1963: Johnny Rutherford (165.183 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[36]
  • 1964: On April 4, 1959, Dick Rathmann set the one-lap Daytona International Speedway track qualifying record driving in a USAC Champ Car race at 173.210 mph.[59] The Champ Cars would not return to the track. The one-lap record held until 1964 when Paul Goldsmith finally broke it in a NASCAR stock car with a speed of 174.910 mph.[29]
  • 1969: David Pearson (190.029 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[37]
  • 1976: A. J. Foyt (185.943 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[38]
  • 1980: A. J. Foyt (195.020 mph) was the fastest qualifier again.[39]
  • 1983: On his first of two qualifying laps, Cale Yarborough ran a lap of 200.503 mph, a new track record, and the first 200 mph lap (320 km/h) in Daytona history. On the second lap, however, gusty winds caused him to spin, flip over, and crash in turn 4. The car had to be withdrawn, and the lap did not count. Yarborough started a backup car on race day, and was moved to the rear of the field.[60] Ricky Rudd was credited with the fastest qualifying speed at 198.864 mph.[40]
  • 1990: Pole winner Ken Schrader crashed during the Gatorade Twin 125's, and was required to start a back-up car on race day. His car was moved to the rear of the field, and duel winner Geoff Bodine moved up to the pole position.[42]
  • 2003: Starting with the 2002 Subway 400 at Rockingham (the race after the 2002 Daytona 500), teams were not permitted to change engines during the race week. For the Daytona 500, a team must race their qualifying race with the same engine they used to qualify. An engine change between first qualifying practice and the qualifying race means the team must start in the back for that race only. After the qualifying races, teams will be allowed one engine change before the start of the final Daytona 500 practices on the Saturday before the race. The engine in the car for the Saturday practices before the Daytona 500 is the declared engine, with any engine change after the first Daytona 500 practice that occurs after the qualifying race will be penalized with the team being sent to the rear of the field. As is the case for a backup car after a crash, the respective column of cars moves up when the offending car is moved to the back. This is the first Daytona 500 with the new engine rule.
  • 2004: Greg Biffle won his first Nextel Cup Series pole but changed engines after final Daytona 500 practice the Saturday before the race. This moved the inside column of cars up, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. started first and won the race.[47]
  • 2011: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Coors Light Pole Award, but crashed in Wednesday practice. Although a backup car was implemented and Earnhardt started in the rear for the first Duel, he also was moved to the rear for the Daytona 500 under an oddity in Daytona 500 qualifying rules. Drivers who switch to backup cars after incidents in Wednesday practice do not have to move to the back for the Daytona 500 if the car raced in the Duel is the same car for the 500, unless it is one of the front row qualifying cars. Kurt Busch, who won the first Duel, started first.
  • 2015: Starting with 2014 The Profit on CNBC 500 the next week at Phoenix, multiple-round knockout qualifying, used in many codes of motorsport, was implemented. The knockout format was used for the first time at the Daytona 500, using the old restrictor plate qualifying format (three five-minute rounds, with the first round split evenly between cars, each having a five-minute round, top 24 advance to the second round, top 12 advancing to the final round). Six drivers were faster than pole speed in Q1, and three drivers (including eventual pole winner Jeff Gordon) were faster than the pole speed in Q2. The pole time was set in Q3. Aric Almirola (44.473 seconds/202.370 mph (325.683 km/h)) was the fastest qualifier, but the time was set in Q1; he finished 15th in Q2 (originally 17th, but moved up after two post-Q3 disqualifications) and did not advance to Q3.
  • 2016: Starting with the 2015 GEICO 500 at Talladega, one-lap single car qualifying was used on plate tracks. After the round was completed, the top 12 cars advance to Q2, where the drivers take one more timed lap. The two drivers with the fastest laps in Q2 start first and second, respectively, in the Daytona 500.


Multiple Daytona 500 pole winnersEdit

Cale Yarborough qualified on the pole 4 times (1968, 1970, 1978, 1984)

Consecutive Daytona 500 pole winnersEdit

Ken Schrader was the Daytona 500 pole winner for three consecutive years (1988–1990)
  • 3 consecutive
    • Fireball Roberts (1961–1963)[29]
    • Bill Elliott (1985–1987)
    • Ken Schrader (1988–1990)
  • 2 consecutive
    • Buddy Baker (1979–1980)
    • Chase Elliott (2016–2017)

Family Daytona 500 pole winner combosEdit

Daytona 500 winners from pole positionEdit

  • 1962 - Fireball Roberts[29]
  • 1966 - Richard Petty
  • 1968, 1984 - Cale Yarborough
  • 1980 - Buddy Baker
  • 1985, 1987 - Bill Elliott
  • 1999 - Jeff Gordon
  • 2000 - Dale Jarrett

Television broadcastsEdit

The very first NASCAR races to ever be shown on television were broadcast by CBS. In February 1960, CBS sent a "skeleton" production crew to Daytona Beach, Florida and the Daytona International Speedway to cover the Daytona 500's Twin 100 (now the Can-Am Duels) qualifying races on February 12, 1960.[61] The production crew also stayed to broadcast portions of the Daytona 500 itself, two days later. The event was hosted by John S. Palmer. CBS would continue to broadcast portions of races for the next 18 years, along with ABC and NBC.[62]


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See alsoEdit