Logano, McDowell lead Ford sweep of Daytona 500 front row. Hendrick locked out

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ford swept the front row in qualifying for the Daytona 500 with former race winners Joey Logano and Michael McDowell shocking powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports.

“This is all about the team. I'd like to take credit, but I can't. Superspeedway qualifying is 100% the car,” said Logano, who won the first Daytona 500 pole for Team Penske. “Finally, someone else wins the pole.”

Hendrick drivers had won the pole at Daytona in eight last nine year years, but the team's highest qualifier Wednesday night was Kyle Larson in third.

The entire night, in which only the front row for Sunday's season-opening race was set, belonged to Ford. Four drivers in the manufacturer's new Dark Horse advanced to the final round-of-10 qualifying portion with Logano and McDowell sweeping the front row.

Logano turned a lap of 181.947 mph as the 2015 Daytona 500 winner earned his first pole since Atlanta last year. It was also Logano's first pole on a superspeedway.

McDowell, the 2021 winner, qualified second at 181.686 for Front Row Motorsports.

Larson was third in a Chevrolet after Hendrick drivers had won three straight Daytona 500 poles heading into Wednesday night. Austin Cindric in a Ford for Penske was fourth and followed by Hendrick teammates Chase Elliott and William Byron in Camaros.

Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch qualified seventh and eighth in Chevrolets, followed by Ross Chastain in a Chevy for Trackhouse Racing and Harrison Burton in a Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. Dillon won the Daytona 500 in 2018.

Anthony Alfredo of Beard Motorsports and David Ragan in a special third car for RFK Racing took two of the four open spots in the field based on speed. Jimmie Johnson, a two-time Daytona 500 winner driving for his own Legacy Motor Club, did not make it into the field and will have to race his way in through one of the two Thursday night qualifying races.

Alfredo was never in danger after posting the fastest speed of all the cars not already locked into the 40-car field. But he was so fast — he was in the top five at one point — that he was never in danger of not qualifying for the Daytona 500.

“This is insane, we were just talking about every (qualifying) scenario we may face,” Alfredo said. “We have clearly a fast Chevrolet Camaro and to know we are in … and remove ourselves from some of the sketchy circumstances and focus on Sunday is amazing.”

Ragan is the first driver being used by RFK Racing this year as a third Ford in select races.

“It's always big to be in the Daytona 500 and the whole week, I've just been trying not to make mistakes,” said Ragan, who is 0 for 16 in “The Great American Race.”

“I didn't have a chance to beat Jimmie Johnson day in and day out during my career, so I'll take the small victories when I can get them.”

Johnson's showing was a product of Toyota's overall effort. The highest-qualifying Toyota was Erik Jones — who drives for Johnson at Legacy — at 22nd.

“I had higher expectations for sure, but we are lumped right there with the other Toyotas. It is what it is,” Johnson said. “I’ve never been in this position, so I don’t know. I came down here mentally prepared to race my way in if that was required. I’m well studied. I spent a lot of time working on the environment of the Duels and the way the race will unfold. Just get out there and race hard and see how it unfolds.”

Michael McDowell, left, heads to an interview after joking around with AJ Allmendinger during NASCAR Daytona 500 auto racing media day at Daytona International Speedway, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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