DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Earlier this week, a list of favorites for the Daytona 500 pole probably wouldn’t have included Bill Elliott.
That perception changed dramatically during Saturday’s two NASCAR Sprint Cup practices, when Elliott topped the speed charts for both sessions, as drivers made single-car runs around 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway in preparation for today’s pole qualifying session.
Driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, Elliott posted a top speed of 187.950 mph and served notice to the rest of the field that he not only expects to make the season-opening points race on speed but also has a legitimate shot at securing the top starting spot.
Only the top two starting positions for the Daytona 500 will be determined today. The rest of the field will be ordered after Thursday’s Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races.
With his car outside the top 35 in 2008 owner points, Elliott must qualify for the race on speed or through the Duels, unless two more recent past Cup champions – Tony Stewart and Terry Labonte – do likewise. If both Stewart and Labonte race their way into the 500, Elliott would have a past champion’s provisional starting spot as a safety valve.
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