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Chase Elliott wins pole for Daytona 500

Posted On Saturday, 13 February 2016 19:00 Written by
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For the fourth consecutive year, a Chevrolet SS will lead the field to the green flag for the season-opening Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway. This year, Rookie of the Year contender, Chase Elliott, put the Bowtie Brand in the top spot for the Great American Race with a lap of 45.845 seconds/ 196.314 mph in his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS.


“This is a very, very cool day,” said Elliott.  “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 500 qualifying 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 off-season 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 Chevrolet. This is very special and a great way to start the season.”

Elliott becomes the sixth rookie to win the pole for the Daytona 500 and the youngest at 20 years, two months and 20 days of age.  This is the third time in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history that the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet SS will start from the first starting position for the Daytona 500.


Two-time Daytona 500 winner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will start third, followed by six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS who will start sixth.


Kurt Busch rounded out the Chevrolet power in the top-12 with an 11th-place qualifying effort in his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS.

Post-Qualifying Inspection by NASCAR officials determined that the track bar on the No. 4 and No. 14 Chevrolet SS race cars driven by Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers, respectively, was not in compliance with prescribed specifications.  The times for both drivers were disallowed; and they will start from the rear of the field in the upcoming qualifying races.

Matt Kenseth (Toyota) will start on the outside front row next to Elliott.


With the top two positions in place, the remainder of the starting order for the 40-car Daytona 500 field will be determined by the two Can-Am Duel at Daytona qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 18 beginning at 7:00 p.m., which will be aired live on FoxSports1.



THE MODERATOR:  We are now joined by the 21 Means 21 Pole Award winner for the 58th Daytona 500, Chase Elliott.

Chase, before you came in here a little while ago, we listed off a whole bunch of accomplishments, records and milestones that this pole set here, including you are the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner at the age of 20 years, 2 months, and 17 days.  Talk a little bit about your run out there and what it means to hold the pole here at Daytona.

:  It's such a special day, a great way to start 2016 for our team.  Daytona 500 qualifying day is such an opportunity for the teams to really, I feel like, show what they've done in the off‑season, the kind of work ethic they have, the amount of hours, the massaging they put in these racecars to find those extra hundredths and thousandths of a second that are so crucial on qualifying day.

That's what it's all about today.  I don't feel like it's about me.  Nothing special I did to earn it.  It's about those guys, the kind of car they brought to the racetrack.  That's the biggest thing I look at.

Just excited to be part of the race team.  Want to make sure I try my best to do the job that they deserve.

:  We'll open it up for questions for Chase.

Q.  Chase, you know that Jeff Gordon and Alan Gustafson have had a lot of success in qualifying at Daytona and Talladega. Knowing the driver isn't as important, did you feel pressure to make sure you did do your part and get the car as close to the front row as possible?

:  I think definitely coming into today, knowing those guys had a lot of success over the course of 2015, this is the same car he had a lot of success with last year on qualifying, had a lot of success in the race, too, were really fast both of those days.  But definitely didn't want to mess anything up.

Like you said, it's pretty straightforward I think from the driving side.  But I found a way to mess up there that first go.  Stalled it and didn't get going like I needed to.  Still didn't get going like I needed to that second round, but fortunately it was enough.

Just try not to do anything dumb to mess up.

Q.  Your father won the Brickyard in 2002.  In 2001 he won his last Daytona 500 pole.  Do you have any recollection of that? When you think of what your father meant in the Daytona 500, what does it feel now for you to be part of that?

:  I can't say that I remember that day.  I wish I did, but I don't.  I know those guys have had, him and his family, their entire team, they had some great days down here.  It's hard to not have a ton of respect for everything they did.  Doing it out of Georgia, the manner about which they went about their business I think is really special.  I think that's something to look at and go about your business like that.  I feel like they did things the right way.  That's very cool to look back on.

Q.  You talked about this being mostly a team thing, but it does put you in the spotlight for a few days, is a big accomplishment. Does it separate you from the other rookies, at least for a while, having this first big notch?

:  No, not at all.  I don't think today has anything to do with that.  I think there's a lot of great rookies this year that are competing for that award.  But I don't think today separates anybody from anybody else by any means.  I think those guys have just as good a shot to have a great week as anybody else.

Like I said, there's some good guys out there, good teams they're driving for.  I expect all of them to be good.

Q.  Have you had any communication with Jeff?  If so, what did he say?

:  Just the FOX interview a minute ago.  Other than that, I have not yet.  Just said congratulations.

I think he knows the caliber of people and the kind of group that the 24 team has built over the years.  Alan Gustafson has played a major role in that.  He's done such a good job of welcoming me into this role.  I think that's very important.  I've had his support since I walked in the door in December to go test at Homestead with that team.  Really just their entire group welcomed me with open arms, making me feel at home, I feel like it was a very big step into trying to get things started off the right way.

I kind of take this week as a building block, especially today.  Just grow my respect for what they did over the off‑season, just to give them thanks.  Like I said, today is about them and what they accomplished.

Q.  I know you're very businesslike about it, but this is a really big deal to win the pole in your first Daytona 500.  What are your feelings about that?  Can you tell us about the emotion.

:  Yeah, like I told other people, I don't think I completely wrapped my head around it or let it completely sink in that we were even going to be competing at the Daytona 500 today much less have a shot and go out and sit on the pole.

I think the biggest thing I look at is kind of going back to last night and looking at this race, trying to learn some things.  For us, we want to try to be smart on Thursday.  Like I told other people the past 25, 30 minutes, this is a big day, but at the same time this is a long week.  This is a step in the right direction, but that's one lap versus 500 miles next Sunday.  Very big difference.

Like I said, just real long ways to go.  We want to try to make sure we have this car next Sunday.  That's the main goal.  Try to be smart on Thursday.  Know if we can get through these Duels, we can start on the front row regardless, that's important.

Having that to look back on and a little bit of comfort there I think is good.  But at the same time I still think I need to be in some positions to learn for the race on Sunday.  I've never drafted in these cars, which I think is going to be important.  I've been trying to pay as much attention to that as possible.

I think our car is plenty good enough to compete.  We just need to be smart and try to hopefully speed up that learning curve.

Q.  Were you nervous at all coming into today, knowing you're in the Daytona 500 through this new system, knowing you have a lot of time to prepare?  Or was it kind of go out and see where you end up?

:  In a way I think it was.  In a way I felt like, you know, these guys had prepared a really good racecar, and they all had a lot of confidence in it.  For me, I just wanted to try to do my job, try not to mess anything up.  I know Alan felt really good about qualifying, hopefully having a shot at the pole.  I just didn't want to mess up, try to hit my marks, move forward from there.

But there were definitely some nerves.  For me, just trying to let it sink in a little bit I think is going to be important.  But like I said a minute ago, this is a long week.  We need to be smart about that and try to have this car for next Sunday.

Q.  Super Bowl is over, there's no republican presidential debate.  They probably won't be announcing a successor to the Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court.  Are you ready for the media distraction in the next week?

:  I think it's as much as you let it be in that aspect.  I think the most important thing is what goes on the racetrack, trying to be prepared, from a mental standpoint, physically as well, just try to wrap your head around what's to come.  The kind of racing that's going to go on throughout this week is very important.

Like I alluded to a minute ago, paying attention to that race last night was important.  Watching races over the past couple years I think will be big as well.  The media side is what it is.  I think as much of it will get to you as you let it.  That's the way I go about it.

Q.  What did they tell you when you went out there today?  What was your mission when you went on the track?  Do you have a thought about how much of what you do is talent, how much of it is practice and how much of it is just the genetics that you've inherited from your dad?

:  As far as the game plan today, it was just try to hit my shift points, not hit the apron, try to get off pit road and get that launch coming to the green flag were the main objectives today.  Fortunately all that stuff went smooth.  Had an opportunity to have a good starting spot on Sunday.

As far as the other question goes, that's not really for me to judge.  I'm not going to judge myself.  People are entitled to their opinion, and that's great, but that's not for me to say.

THE MODERATOR:  Chase, thanks so much.  Congratulations on winning the pole for the Daytona 500.



-- Transcript courtesy of Chevy Racing

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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