DAYTONA BEACH, FL (WIAT) – For the second straight year, the No. 24 car has found it’s way to the front of the pack, heading into next Sunday’s Daytona 500, but there is a much younger face behind the wheel.
20-year-old Chase Elliott turned the fastest time in Sunday’s qualifying, becoming the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 pole.
“I’ve had a great opportunity to come out here and watch these events, and watch my dad over the years,” said Elliott. “It’s weird to be competing in it. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around that, much less winning the pole today.”
Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, is now a full-time driver for Hendrick Motorsports and has taken the driver’s seat from four-time retired champion Jeff Gordon.
Today the rookie topped out at 196.314 mph while outpacing 43 others to place dibs on the front row of the 58th running of the Great American Race.
“It’s definitely been different, a new role, a new opportunity, and something that is definitely going to take some getting used to,” said Elliott. “Racing on the Cup side is different but at the same time the fundamentals and the things you do, you are still turning left and you are still trying to go as fast as you can.”
Matt Kenseth is the only other driver to lock up a spot for the NASCAR Sprint Cup season opener.
The remainder of the starting lineup will be determined in this Thursday’s Can-Am Duel races.