Two rounds of Cup qualifying practices just finished up with underdogs leading the way in Ty Dillon and Bubba Wallace each topping practices 1 and 2 respectively. Chevy was getting blown out in the Busch Clash practice sessions, but for the 500 they seem to be a little more prepped.
Much like the race itself, qualifying seems to always be a crapshoot as the driver is usually taken out of the equation. The Daytona 500 pole is really more of an award to the crew chief for getting the car ready for a good one lap run anyway.
My best guesses at who we’ll see winning this year are.
3rd: Christopher Bell
Bell was one of the standouts early on in the first practice and finished 6th by the end. He followed that up with a 13th in the second. Like I said, this is always a bit random so this is based on how rookies always seem to win the Daytona 500 pole.
Of all the rookies, Bell’s car seems to be looking strong early on.
2nd: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse has something to prove in the worst way. I don’t blame Roush for finally ripping off that band-aid, but I’m sure RSJ feels differently. He finished the first practice in 2nd and then capped it off with 9th in the second.
Stenhouse might be hard pressed to find the front at an intermediate track, but at superspeedways he always shows up. With the JTG Daugherty car running well, I think we’ll see him make a strong push this week.
1st: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin is the favorite for not only qualifying but also the big race itself. Coming off a 500 win the previous year and a disappointing end to his near championship run last season. Finishing 3rd and then 8th in practice sessions.
He seemed to be the most consistent of the regular contenders. I think of any driver, Hamlin has the most raw motivation to win this race and it starts with this pole.