Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins 2020 Daytona 500 pole

Feb. 9 (UPI) — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start on the front row after winning the pole Sunday for the season-opening Daytona 500 next week at Daytona International Speedway.

Stenhouse turned a fast lap of 194.582 mph to claim the pole position, edging Alex Bowman for the top spot in the race. Bowman reached 194.363 mph around the 2 1/2-mile track to secure a front-row spot for the third straight year. He finished 17th and 11th in the previous two openers.

Stenhouse’s third pole in 257 Cup Series starts and first at Daytona came on his second day in the new Chevrolet Camaro.

Next Sunday’s Daytona 500 also will be Stenhouse’s first start with JTG-Daugherty Racing. He replaced Ryan Preece in the No. 47 Chevrolet.

“It’s cool,” Stenhouse told reporters Sunday. “[Team owner] Tad [Geschickter] and [wife] Jodi are back at the shop with everybody. So I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be here and to bring guys with me like [crew chief] Brian [Pattie]. They’ve been working really hard. They’re in my corner and they’ve been behind me throughout all my career.

“[Competition director] Ernie [Cope] runs a great organization and a great shop. … I’m really proud to put our Kroger Chevy on the pole on Kroger pole day for the Daytona 500. That was our goal coming down here. Pattie was working really hard all off-season for that goal and everybody chipped in.”

Only the top two spots were set in single-car qualifying. The starting order for the remainder of the 40-car field will be determined by a pair of qualifying races Thursday at Daytona.

Bowman’s teammates, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson, qualified third and fourth and will start on the front row for Thursday’s Duel races.

Defending Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin was the fifth-fastest driver, while Christopher Bell (ninth) was the fastest rookie. Reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was sixth-fastest.

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