NASCAR: Daytona 500 sees rare occurrence for first time since 2001

Alex Bowman, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Alex Bowman didn’t win the Daytona 500, but he continued a historic week because of where he finished the NASCAR Cup Series season opener.

As he has done every year since joining Hendrick Motorsports as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement ahead of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series season, Alex Bowman qualified on the front row for the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Bowman has now started the Great American Race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval on the front row in six straight years. No other driver in Cup Series history has ever started on the front row five times, period.

Entering Sunday’s race, Bowman was still looking to translate a front row start into a top 10 finish. From 2018 to 2022, he had never finished higher than 11th place in the race. His pole positions in 2018 and 2021 resulted in finishes of 17th and 35th.

He led 12 laps of what ended up being a record-long 212-lap Daytona 500 on Sunday.

But he was never much of a factor after the first few laps. Nine of his 12 laps led came in the race’s first 10 laps. However, the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet stayed out of trouble and took advantage of late-race calamity to score a fifth place finish to open up the 2023 season.

It marked the first time that a Daytona 500 polesitter finished the race in the top five since Bill Elliott finished in fifth place back in 2001.

A Daytona 500 polesitter hasn’t won the race since the year before, when Dale Jarrett pulled it off. Interestingly enough, the 400-mile summer race at the track has been won by the polesitter five times since then, most recently in 2015.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won the race, started in 31st place, marking the lowest starting position for an eventual Daytona 500 winner since Trevor Bayne won it from 32nd in 2011.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Bowman owns four career pole positions, with his only non-Daytona 500 pole coming at Phoenix Raceway in 2016 when he was a part-time replacement for the injured Earnhardt. None of his seven Cup Series victories have come in a superspeedway race.