On Sunday afternoon, the front row will be set for the season opening Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It’s a big bragging rights day for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage.
See, the drivers all agree, qualifying at Daytona is more about the teams than themselves. The drivers just hold it wide open but the speed comes from the work back at the shops in massaging the cars to get the most speed out of them.
Plus, it’s always a big honor to be known as the “Daytona 500 pole winner” or even being on the front row in general. Those two drivers spend an entire week knowing their starting spots for the “Great American Race” and don’t have to worry.
But, being on the front row at Daytona doesn’t necessarily mean success in the ‘500 itself. In fact, it means quite the opposite.
The last time a pole winner won the Daytona 500 itself was 2000. Furthermore, its happened just twice since 1988.
Hendrick Motorsports has won the last four poles for the big race but here are their finishes in the ‘500 – 33rd, 37th, 14th and 17th respectively. The last time a pole winner even finished in the top five was 2002 (Bill Elliott 5th). They’ve failed to score a top 10 finish in 14 of the last 17 years.
The average finishing position for the pole winner has fallen to 16.15.
What about the outside pole? It’s just as bad. Their average finishing position is 16.07.
Just six times in the last 23 years has a second place starter finished in the top five even.
So, think about that when these cars are qualifying on Sunday. It’s a big honor but not the end all be all to start on the front row.