DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – William Byron entered the weekend with no career poles in his NASCAR Cup Series career.
Now, he’s the second-youngest Daytona 500 pole-sitter in history, earning Chevrolet’s 700th Cup Series pole in the process.
“Great to get a pole,” Byron said. “Big for Chevrolet with their accomplishment there. We're looking forward to kind of checking this off and going on to Sunday.”
Byron is the 10th driver in history to earn his first career pole in the Daytona 500. He becomes the 19th driver to earn a pole for Hendrick Motorsports and the eighth to earn his first career pole driving for the organization.
It marked the third Daytona 500 pole for new No. 24 team crew chief Chad Knaus.
“To come back as crew chief of the 24 car and qualify first for the Daytona 500 is just an awesome dream for me,” Knaus said.
Byron said he and the No. 24 team – and the entire organization – knew they had a “realistic” shot at capturing the pole before qualifying got underway.
“We probably thought we were going to be somewhere in the hunt,” the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 said. “The guys have done a lot of work to get down here. It’s been a hard‑working offseason for them, and there's been a lot of things in the works, so I was excited to get down here and see what we had. But ultimately you never know who's going to pop up and be competitive and fast down here.”
As it turned out, all four Hendrick Motorsports teammates were the class of the field, as Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott followed Byron at the top of the board in second, third and fourth, respectively.
It was the first time a team has qualified one-two-three-four in Daytona 500 history.
“A lot of hard work and a lot of effort for and from everybody at (Hendrick Motorsports) to be able to do that,” Knaus said. “The top four spots, that's a pretty amazing feat, I feel. If you go back and you look at our qualifying efforts at the superspeedways the last handful of races, all four of those cars have been in a pretty tight box, and that's a pretty amazing thing to do.”
That spoke volumes to Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick about the entire organization, which now owns 216 total poles, including a record 13 in the Daytona 500. Eight different drivers have secured a Daytona 500 pole for the organization.
“To sit on the pole, to be fast here, it takes everything,” Hendrick said. “You're stacking pennies in the engine shop. They work really hard. And you find a horsepower here and one there, and the bodies are in the wind tunnel, and it's just a tremendous team effort to build a car and not make any mistakes.”
Now, Byron is looking to capitalize on his first-place starting position when “The Great American Race” arrives next Sunday, Feb. 17.
He said that while there are plenty of new adjustments to take in on the No. 24 team, the fact that he’s entering his second season in the Cup Series has been a benefit in itself.
“Being here for the second time feels really comfortable,” Byron said. “I get to go through the garage the same way, don't have to worry about the newness of the Cup Series, so I'm looking forward to that, and I know we've got a hungry group of guys to go after it with.”
And his new crew chief can’t wait to see what they’ll be able to accomplish together in 2019.
“His dedication and drive and desire to go out there and be one of the best drivers in the sport is evident,” Knaus said of Byron, “and I think his ability is pretty obvious just with what he's accomplished in the past. You put that work ethic and that ability together, and you've got a pretty impressive little thing there.”