At Daytona International Speedway in July, the saying goes as such: 'It's not if it will rain, but when.'
And that prophecy proved true again Friday, as an extended afternoon thunderstorm ruined any semblance of schedule at the track. But when the dark clouds finally subsided, there was time for qualifying for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 — and Chase Elliott emerged on top, winning the pole at Daytona for the third time in his career.
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Behind Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman will start on the front line and Brad Keselowski will begin third. Rounding out the Top 5 for Saturday's race are Jimmie Johnson in fourth and Kevin Harvick in fifth. Kyle Busch, who won last week's thriller at Chicagoland Speedway, will start 15th.
But qualifying wasn't the only note of importance on Friday. Here are some other prerace notes from Daytona Beach:
▪ The biggest storyline to pop up this week centered on the comments made by International Speedway Corporation (ISC) president John Saunders. Saunders said ISC's attendance numbers were lower than anticipated because of issues with "star power," and he hoped younger drivers would start winning races to remedy that issue. His remarks went over poorly among young drivers.
▪ Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon, who has not won another race this season, is making his return to Daytona Beach this weekend for the first time as the reigning champion. Dillon won in February with a last-lap pass over Aric Almirola — so how many times has he relived that moment since?
“Quite a few," Dillon said Thursday. "It’s a good feeling coming to the checkered flag and the entire field is behind you. Anytime you can relive those moments, you try to. It’s kind of like a dream."
▪ Speaking of Daytona 500, Cup Series rookie Bubba Wallace had his best finish this season back here in February, as well. Wallace barely came in second, and then memorably broke down in his post-race news conference with his mom. But since then, he has but one other Top 10 finish (eighth at Texas). Wallace told reporters Thursday that he knew this season would be difficult, but that he still expected to have more success than he has.
"I think we are a little bit behind from where we want to be. But with that, I don’t think we had an exact clue as to what to expect with everything that went on during the offseason," Wallace said. "We were starting over. So, it was like a rebranding for Richard Petty Motorsports and a rebuild mode for the whole team. We knew we would have some bad weekends, and unfortunately our bad weekends are 25th."
▪ Kyle Busch, who collected his fifth win of the season last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, was still answering questions about the close finish a week removed, but also about his post-race antics. Busch drew boos and criticism for fake crying into the camera after his win, but acknowledged this week that the negativity doesn't bother him.
"Man, I've had the black hat for a long, long time," Busch said, "so it doesn't bother me as long as it doesn't bother my sponsors and they can accept that, as well."
NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 Lineup
Friday’s qualifying; race Saturday 7 p.m. (NBC)
At Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla.
(Car number in parentheses)
1. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 194.045 mph
2. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 193.046
3. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 192.802
4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 192.361
5. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 192.345
6. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 192.164
7. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 191.812
8. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 191.669
9. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 191.445
10. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 191.298
11. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 191.152
12. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 190.981
13. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 191.209
14. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 191.140
15. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 190.913
16. (62) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 190.900
17. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 190.876
18. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 190.868
19. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 190.832
20. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 190.819
21. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 190.634
22. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 190.565
23. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 190.396
24. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 190.339
25. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 190.042
26. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 190.034
27. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 189.777
28. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 189.649
29. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 189.434
30. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 189.203
31. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 188.336
32. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 188.001
33. (15) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 187.371
34. (7) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 187.324
35. (96) DJ Kennington, Toyota, 186.312
36. (00) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 185.361
37. (99) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 185.033
38. (72) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 184.976
39. (51) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 183.146
40. (23) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 182.730
Failed to qualify
41. (92) Timothy Peters, Ford, 181.068
- Associated Press