Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on pole for Daytona 500

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stood by his car and gazed at one of the ISM Vision video screens that line pit road. He watched car after car post lap after lap. Finally, the last car clocked in, and Erik Jones ran slower than him. It was time to celebrate.

After losing his ride at Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the 2019 season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. opened the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season by taking pole position for the 62nd running of the Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on pole for Daytona 500

“Really proud to put our Kroger Chevy on the pole, on Kroger Pole Day, for the Daytona 500,” Stenhouse said. “That was our goal coming down here. [Brian Pattie, crew chief] was working really hard all offseason for that goal. Everyone chipped in, the whole shop. We cut bodies off. We put them back on. This goes out to the whole shop.

“Anytime you can start the season off, your first race with an organization, and to see all the work that they put in. Guys at the shop that I didn’t even know are working Saturdays, working late nights, all for the benefit of me to come down here and jump in this car and run fast. Touring the Hendrick engine shop, they were pumped up for me to switch over into their horsepower. This goes to a lot of people that work hard behind the scenes for me to come out here and drive.”

It’s his third career pole in 257 Cup Series starts.

His lap of 46.253 (194.582 mph) was faster than William Byron’s pole lap in 2019.

Alex Bowman locked himself into the Daytona 500 with a second-place qualifying run; at 46.305 (194.363 mph).

The rest of the lineup will be set Thursday in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races.

Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Byron, Christopher Bell and Erik Jones round out the top 10.

Chris Buescher, whom replaced Stenhouse at Roush Fenway Racing, clocked in 19th fastest.

Justin Haley locked himself into the Daytona 500 on speed, with a lap of 47.364 (190.018 mph), as did Brendan Gaughan at 47.633 (188.945 mph).

The other five open-car drivers — Daniel Suarez, Chad Finchum, Timmy Hill, JJ Yeley and Reed Sorenson — must race their way into the Daytona 500 in Thursday’s Duel’s.

BJ McLeod didn’t turn a lap in qualifying, because of a broken transmission.