NASCAR: William Byron fittingly ends bizarre Hendrick streak

If Hendrick Motorsports want to win the Daytona 500, they apparently can't start on the front row. William Byron proved it, ending a 10-year drought.

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Daytona 500, NASCAR / James Gilbert/GettyImages
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One of the main storylines heading into last week's qualifying session for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway was the dominance of Hendrick Motorsports in recent years.

Specifically, the team had taken three pole positions in a row -- three front row lockouts, in fact -- and eight of the last nine.

Alex Bowman himself secured a record that will probably never be broken, clinching a front row starting spot each year from 2018 to 2023, a six-year stretch during which he collected three pole positions. As a driver for Rick Hendrick's team, he had never started lower than second place.

Hendrick qualifying dominance ends

But this year's Daytona 500 front row was locked out by Ford, with Team Penske's Joey Logano on pole and Front Row Motorsports' Michael McDowell alongside him on the front row. Hendrick Motorsports' top qualifier was Chase Elliott, whose second place finish in the first of two Bluegreen Vacations Duels netted him a fifth place starting position.

The last time Hendrick Motorsports didn't start the Daytona 500 on the front row was in 2014. Heading into 2024, that was also the last time they had won the race, doing so with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after that race was pushed back several hours due to rain.

So of course the year they ended their win drought was also the year in which they were finally knocked off the front row.

Hendrick Daytona 500 drought ends

William Byron, who started in 18th place after an eighth place finish in the second Duel, led only four laps of the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

But he had taken the white flag and was ahead of the driver running in second place when the race-ending caution flag flew, making him the winning of the 66th annual "Great American Race". He became the 43rd different driver to win the event.

And sure enough, the driver in second place happened to be Bowman. So the Hendrick Motorsports front row to which we had all become accustomed did end up happening -- but 200 laps later than usual.

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Bowman and Byron shared the front row in both 2019 and 2021, both times with Bowman on pole. After becoming the first polesitter to finish in the top five since 2001 last year, Bowman started this year's race in seventh place.

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