List of Daytona 500 pole position winners

List of Daytona 500 pole position winners
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson waves to fans
Jimmie Johnson, polesitter in 2002 and 2008

Daytona 500 pole position winners for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 are rewarded with being the driver to lead the field across the start line at the beginning of the 500-mile (800 km) race. Pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 is held one weekend before the race at the Daytona International Speedway. The driver to complete the fastest single lap in a two-lap qualifying effort around the 2.5-mile (4.0 km) high-banked tri-oval superspeedway earns the pole position. The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, and in 1982 it became the opening event for the NASCAR season.[1] The term "pole position" was originally coined in the American horse racing industry, and indicated the position of the starter being next to the "poles", which established the boundaries of the course.[2] The two drivers who complete a lap with the fastest time are awarded the first and second starting positions for the Daytona 500. An additional 33 to 35 entrants are determined by a combination of the results of two qualifying races and the position of the team in the previous season's point rankings. The remainder of the 43 car field consists of drivers who meet certain qualifications, such as qualifying speed or being one of the previous NASCAR champions.[1]

Bill Elliott set the pole position qualifying record on February 9, 1987 when he navigated around the circuit with a 42.782 second lap, which is an average speed of 210.364 miles per hour (338.548 km/h).[3] Since 1988, NASCAR has required teams to install a restrictor plate between the carburetor and the engine. This rule was enacted as an effort to slow the cars speed in response to an accident in which fans suffered minor injuries when Bobby Allison's car blew at tire and crashed at over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) during a race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1987.[4] Depending upon the sponsor, era, or a specific year, the qualifying races have been referred to as "The Duals" or "The Twins".[5]



Graphic representation of Daytona International Speedway
Track layout

The qualifying session for pole position is held before the Daytona 500[6] on the first Sunday of Speedweeks.[7] Drivers compete individually, driving two consecutive timed laps. The single lap completed with the highest average speed is the recorded statistic.[8] The fastest qualifier takes the pole position for the Daytona 500 and starts on the inside of the first row; the second fastest starts alongside him on the outside, referred to as the "outside pole."[9] Both front row starters are locked in to these starting positions.[9]

Originally NASCAR did not limit qualifying to a single day, or single attempt; it offered a second round of qualifying for teams who wished to improve their qualifying times. Drivers and teams decided if they were content with their first attempt, and "stood on their time", or if they wanted to improve their chances by attempting a "second-round qualifying" attempt. If satisfied with the original attempt, the team was required to notify NASCAR within five minutes of the final practice sessions, and before the beginning of the "second-round qualifying" attempts.[10] The second round of qualifying ended in 2001.[11]

The two fastest qualifiers (the Daytona 500 pole winner and the "outside" pole winner) are also awarded the pole positions for the two Gatorade Duel qualifying races held the following Thursday. Drivers are ranked by their qualifying speed. Those who rank with an odd-numbered speed are assigned to the first qualifying race, and those with an even-numbered rank to the second race. Cars with the highest qualifying rank start the race in the front.[12] The starting spots for the third through 39th positions are determined by the drivers' finishing position in the qualifying races.[13] Each of the two qualifying races is 150-mile (240 km) long.[6] The final starting position in the Daytona 500 (43rd overall) is reserved by NASCAR to allow one former NASCAR champion to start the race under the "champion's provisional" rule. Also known as the "Petty Rule", this rule was established in 1989 when NASCAR's winningest driver (Richard Petty) failed to qualify for an event at Richmond International Raceway.[14]

Starting in 2005, NASCAR began guaranteeing that the cars that had finished in the top 35 in owners points during the previous season would be eligible to run in the Daytona 500, regardless of qualifying speed.[15] The qualifying races now determine the relative starting position for these 35 drivers plus the starting positions for an additional seven to eight teams.[16] The top 35 drivers, plus two non-top 35 drivers from each qualifier, start in the first 39 positions of the 500.[16] The 40th, 41st, and 42nd starting positions are given to the fastest three cars based on qualifying speed, which have not already qualified.[16] The 43rd starting position is awarded to the most recent previous NASCAR champion who attempted to qualify; it is given to the fastest car that hadn't qualified if all previous champions qualified into the field.[16] In 2008, the qualifying competition became known as the "Coors Light Pole" when Coors replaced Budweiser as the primary sponsor.[17] Budweiser's parent company, Anheuser Busch Corporation, had been sponsoring the race since 1979.[17]


In early years, qualifying had varying formats: from one timed lap, to the average of two laps, to the better of two laps. The idea of having two individual races to establish the starting lineup of the Daytona 500 dates back to the first race in 1959.[18] That event, advertised as "the 500 Mile NASCAR International Sweepstakes",[19] featured cars from NASCAR's Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) division racing against cars in the Convertible division.[18] The first of the 100-mile (160 km) qualifying races consisted of Convertible division cars and the second of Grand National cars.[18] Shorty Rollins won the 100-mile Convertible race to become the track's first winner.[20] When the green flag was thrown on the first Daytona 500, 59 cars raced to the starting line; the event was held without a caution period during the entire race.[19] In 1960 (incidentally, the first ever national telecast of a NASCAR race), the last chance race was eliminated; from 1960 through 1968 the qualifying events were 100 miles (160 km) in length.[17] When the season opened in 1969, the qualifying races were increased to 125 miles (201 km),[17] which meant the drivers would have to make at least one pit-stop to refuel. Prior to 1971, the qualifying races yielded points to the drivers' championship.[21]

The 12-mile-per-hour (19 km/h) reduction in speed for the 1971 qualification was a result of NASCAR's effort to limit the increasing speeds achieved through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Engine size and technology, along with increased aerodynamic styling changes,[22] brought speeds to over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) at some of the larger superspeedways.[23] In an effort to reduce the escalating costs of developing faster racing equipment, increased horsepower, and the lack of parity in competition, NASCAR implemented several restrictions for the 1971 season,[22][24] attempting to reduce speed by two methods. It experimented with restrictor plates for the first time at Michigan in August 1970.[25] At the beginning of the 1971 season, NASCAR limited an engine's cubic inch displacement.[22] The reductions had the effect of reducing costs for teams, but also limiting the horsepower and top speeds of NASCAR teams.[23] At the time, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. stated:

"Special cars, including the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler, Ford Talladega, Dodge Daytona, Dodge Charger 500, and Plymouth SuperBird shall be limited to a maximum engine size of 305 cubic inches."
—Bill France Sr., [24]

Corporate sponsors purchased naming rights to qualifying races; between 1982 and 1984, Uno cards was the title sponsor for the "Uno Twin 125’s" qualifying events. In 1985 they became known as "7-Eleven Twin 125's"; no sponsors funded the 1988 and 1989 qualifying events and the races were called "Daytona Twin Qualifiers". Gatorade became the sponsor of the dual qualifying events in 1991. In 2005, the event was increased 150 miles (240 km),[17] and became known as the "Gatorade Duels".[9]

Since the restrictor plate era began in 1988, qualifying has been established as the best single lap of two;[26] drivers are permitted one warm-up lap followed by two consecutive timed laps. Since restrictor plate cars require more time to accelerate to full speed, drivers often consider their first timed lap a "throwaway lap," and use it essentially as a second warm-up lap; and the second timed lap is usually the fastest of the three laps.[26]

In August 2009, NASCAR announced that it would reschedule the 2010 opening round of qualifying to avoid a conflict with the NFL Super Bowl.[27] The events that determine the top two starters for the Daytona 500 were rescheduled after the NFL moved the Super Bowl day one week to February 7, 2010.[28] Qualifying had originally been scheduled for February 7, but NASCAR moved the date back to Saturday, February 6, to avoid conflict with the NFL. Daytona Speedway president, Robin Braig, stated:

"We're excited about the new schedule, [...] By moving Daytona 500 qualifying to Saturday, we are now providing even more value to our race fans. (They) can now enjoy a unique racing triple-header as well as all the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl the following day."
—Robin Braig, [29]

Daytona 500 pole winners

Curtis Turner's 1967 Chevy
Curtis Turner's 1967 pole qualifying car
Photo of David Pearson taken in 2008
David Pearson, 1974 pole winner
Photo of Ricky Rudd taken in 2005
Ricky Rudd, 1984 pole position winner
Dale Jarrett's 2000 pole and race winning car
Dale Jarrett's 2000 pole & race winning car
Year of event
Car make
Restrictor plate
1959 Welborn, BobBob Welborn Chevrolet 140.121 mph (225.503 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below); Entire lineup set by Qualifying races[32]
1960 Owens, CottonCotton Owens Pontiac 149.892 mph (241.228 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[33]
1961 Roberts, FireballFireball Roberts (1) Pontiac 155.709 mph (250.589 km/h)[31] Won Qualifying race[34][35]
1962 Roberts, FireballFireball Roberts (2) Pontiac 156.999 mph (252.665 km/h)[31] Won Qualifying race; won Daytona 500[36][37]
1963 Roberts, FireballFireball Roberts (3) Pontiac 160.943 mph (259.013 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[38]
1964 Goldsmith, PaulPaul Goldsmith Plymouth 174.910 mph (281.490 km/h)[31] Track record at time (see below)
1965 Dieringer, DarelDarel Dieringer Mercury 171.151 mph (275.441 km/h)[31] Also won Qualifying race
1966 Petty, RichardRichard Petty Plymouth 175.165 mph (281.901 km/h)[31] Won Daytona 500[31]
1967 Turner, CurtisCurtis Turner Chevrolet 180.831 mph (291.019 km/h)[31]
1968 Yarborough, CaleCale Yarborough (1) Mercury 189.222 mph (304.523 km/h)[31] Won Daytona 500[31]
1969 Baker, BuddyBuddy Baker (1) Dodge 188.901 mph (304.007 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[39]
1970 Yarborough, CaleCale Yarborough (2) Mercury 194.015 mph (312.237 km/h)[31]
1971 Foyt, A. J.A. J. Foyt Mercury 182.744 mph (294.098 km/h)[31]
1972 Isaac, BobbyBobby Isaac Dodge 186.632 mph (300.355 km/h)[31]
1973 Baker, BuddyBuddy Baker (2) Dodge 185.662 mph (298.794 km/h)[31]
1974 Pearson, DavidDavid Pearson Chevrolet 185.017 mph (297.756 km/h)[31]
1975 Allison, DonnieDonnie Allison (1) Chevrolet 185.827 mph (299.060 km/h)[31]
1976 Stott, RamoRamo Stott Chevrolet 183.456 mph (295.244 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[40]
1977 Allison, DonnieDonnie Allison (2) Chevrolet 188.048 mph (302.634 km/h)[31]
1978 Yarborough, CaleCale Yarborough (3) Oldsmobile 187.536 mph (301.810 km/h)[31]
1979 Baker, BuddyBuddy Baker (3) Oldsmobile 196.049 mph (315.510 km/h)[31]
1980 Baker, BuddyBuddy Baker (4) Oldsmobile 194.099 mph (312.372 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below); Won Daytona 500[41]
1981 Allison, BobbyBobby Allison Pontiac 194.624 mph (313.217 km/h)[31]
1982 Parsons, BennyBenny Parsons Pontiac 196.317 mph (315.942 km/h)[31]
1983 Rudd, RickyRicky Rudd Chevrolet 198.864 mph (320.041 km/h)[31] Not fastest qualifier (see below)[42]
1984 Yarborough, CaleCale Yarborough (4) Chevrolet 201.848 mph (324.843 km/h)[31] Won Daytona 500[31]
1985 Elliott, BillBill Elliott (1) Ford 205.114 mph (330.099 km/h)[31] Won Daytona 500[31]
1986 Elliott, BillBill Elliott (2) Ford 205.039 mph (329.978 km/h)[31]
1987 Elliott, BillBill Elliott (3) Ford 210.364 mph (338.548 km/h)[31] All-time track record;[3] Won Daytona 500[31]
1988 Schrader, KenKen Schrader (1) Chevrolet 193.823 mph (311.928 km/h)[31] 1.0001 inch plate[25]
1989 Schrader, KenKen Schrader (2) Chevrolet 196.996 mph (317.034 km/h)[31] 1.0001 inch plate[25] Also won Qualifying race #1[43]
1990 Schrader, KenKen Schrader (3) Chevrolet 196.515 mph (316.260 km/h)[31] 0.937515/16 inch plate[25] Geoff Bodine started on pole (see below)[44]
1991 Allison, DaveyDavey Allison Ford 195.955 mph (315.359 km/h)[31] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25]
1992 Marlin, SterlingSterling Marlin Ford 192.213 mph (309.337 km/h)[31] 0.8757/8 inch plate[25]
1993 Petty, KyleKyle Petty Pontiac 189.426 mph (304.852 km/h)[31] 0.8757/8 inch plate[25]
1994 Allen, Jr., LoyLoy Allen, Jr. Ford 190.158 mph (306.030 km/h)[31] 0.8757/8 inch plate[25] Allen was the first rookie pole winner[45]
1995 Jarrett, DaleDale Jarrett (1) Ford 196.498 mph (316.233 km/h)[31] 0.8757/8 inch plate[25]
1996 Earnhardt, DaleDale Earnhardt Chevrolet 189.510 mph (304.987 km/h)[31] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25]
1997 Skinner, MikeMike Skinner Chevrolet 189.813 mph (305.474 km/h)[31] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25]
1998 Labonte, BobbyBobby Labonte Pontiac 192.415 mph (309.662 km/h)[31] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25]
1999 Gordon, JeffJeff Gordon Chevrolet 195.067 mph (313.930 km/h)[31] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25] Won Daytona 500[31]
2000 Jarrett, DaleDale Jarrett (2) Ford 191.091 mph (307.531 km/h)[31] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25] Won Daytona 500[31]
2001 Elliott, BillBill Elliott (4) Dodge 183.565 mph (295.419 km/h)[31] 0.937515/16 inch plate[25]
2002 Johnson, JimmieJimmie Johnson (1) Chevrolet 185.831 mph (299.066 km/h) 0.937515/16 inch plate[25] Johnson's rookie season, having run only three races in 2001[46]
2003 Green, JeffJeff Green Chevrolet 186.606 mph (300.313 km/h)[47] 0.8757/8 inch plate[25]
2004 Biffle, GregGreg Biffle Ford 188.387 mph (303.179 km/h)[48] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[25] Dale Earnhardt, Jr. started first (see below)[49]
2005 Jarrett, DaleDale Jarrett (3) Ford 188.312 mph (303.059 km/h)[50] 0.89062557/64 inch plate[25]
2006 Burton, JeffJeff Burton Chevrolet 189.151 mph (304.409 km/h)[51] 0.89062557/64 inch plate[25]
2007 Gilliland, DavidDavid Gilliland Ford 186.320 mph (299.853 km/h)[52] 0.8757/8 inch plate[25]
2008 Johnson, JimmieJimmie Johnson (2) Chevrolet 187.075 mph (301.068 km/h)[53] 0.9687531/32 inch plate[25]
2009 Truex, Jr., MartinMartin Truex, Jr. Chevrolet 188.001 mph (302.558 km/h)[54] 0.9687531/32 inch plate
2010 Martin, MarkMark Martin Chevrolet 191.188 mph (307.687 km/h) 0.98437563/64 inch plate[55]
2011 Earnhardt, Jr., DaleDale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevrolet 186.089 mph (299.481 km/h)[56] 0.9062529/32 inch plate[57] Kurt Busch started on the pole due to Earnhardt Jr. crashing in a practice session on Wednesday.


  • 1959: Cotton Owens (143.198 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[31]
  • 1960: Fireball Roberts (151.556 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[33]
  • 1963: Johnny Rutherford (165.183 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[38]
  • 1964: On April 4, 1959, Dick Rathmann set the one-lap Daytona International Speedway track qualifying record driving in a USAC Champ Car race at 173.210 mph.[58] The Champ Cars would not return to the track. The one-lap record held until 1964 when Paul Goldsmith finally broke it in a NASCAR stock car with a speed of 174.910 mph.[31]
  • 1969: David Pearson (190.029 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[39]
  • 1976: A. J. Foyt (185.943 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[40]
  • 1980: A. J. Foyt (195.020 mph) was the fastest qualifier.[41]
  • 1983: On his first of two qualifying laps, Cale Yarborough ran a lap of 200.503 mph, a new track record, and the first 200 mph lap (320 km/h) in Daytona history. On the second lap, however, gusty winds caused him to spin, flip over, and crash in turn 4. The car had to be withdrawn, and the lap did not count. Yarborough started a backup car on race day, and was moved to the rear of the field.[59] Ricky Rudd was credited with the fastest qualifying speed at 198.864 mph[42]
  • 1990: Pole winner Ken Schrader crashed during the Gatorade 125s, and was required to start a back-up car on race day. His car was moved to the rear of the field, and third place starter Geoff Bodine moved up to the pole position.[44]
  • 2003: Starting with the 2002 Subway 400 at Rockingham (the race after the 2002 Daytona 500), teams were not permitted to change engines during the race week. For the Daytona 500, a team must race their qualifying race with the same engine they used to qualify. An engine change between first qualifying practice and the qualifying race means the team must start in the back for that race only. After the qualifying races, teams will be allowed one engine change before the start of the first Daytona 500 practice. Any engine change after the first Daytona 500 practice that occurs after the qualifying race will be penalised with the team being sent to the rear of the field. This is the first Daytona 500 with the new engine rule.
  • 2004: Greg Biffle won his first Nextel Cup pole but changed engines after final Daytona 500 practice the Saturday before the race. This moved the inside column of cars up, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. started first.[49]


Multiple Daytona 500 pole winners

Cale Yarborough in race attire
Cale Yarborough qualified on the pole four times (1968, 1970, 1978, 1984)
  • 4 pole positions
    • Buddy Baker (1969, 1973, 1979, 1980)[31]
    • Cale Yarborough (1968, 1970, 1978, 1984)[31]
    • Bill Elliott (1985, 1986, 1987, 2001)[31]
  • 3 pole positions
    • Fireball Roberts (1961, 1962, 1963)[31]
    • Ken Schrader (1988, 1989, 1990)[31]
    • Dale Jarrett (1995, 2000, 2005)[30]
  • 2 pole positions
    • Donnie Allison (1975, 1977)[31]
    • Jimmie Johnson (2002, 2008)[30]

Consecutive Daytona 500 pole winners

Driver Ken Schrader has a laugh
Ken Schrader, pole position winner for three consecutive years (1988–1990)
  • 3 consecutive
    • Fireball Roberts (1961–1962–1963)[31]
    • Bill Elliott (1985–1986–1987)
    • Ken Schrader (1988–1989–1990)
  • 2 consecutive
    • Buddy Baker (1979–1980)

Family Daytona 500 pole winner combos

  • Bobby Allison (1981), Donnie Allison (1975) and (1977) (Brother of Bobby), and Davey Allison (1991) (Son of Bobby)
  • Dale Earnhardt (1996) (Father) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2011) (Son)
  • Richard Petty (1966) (Father) and Kyle Petty (1993) (Son)

Daytona 500 winners from pole position

  • 1962 Fireball Roberts[31]
  • 1966 Richard Petty
  • 1968 Cale Yarborough
  • 1980 Buddy Baker
  • 1984 Cale Yarborough
  • 1985 Bill Elliott
  • 1987 Bill Elliott
  • 1999 Jeff Gordon
  • 2000 Dale Jarrett

Television broadcasts

The very first NASCAR races to ever be shown on television were broadcasted by CBS. In February 1960, CBS sent a "skeleton" production crew to Daytona Beach, Florida and the Daytona International Speedway to cover the Daytona 500's Twin 100 (now the Gatorade Duel) qualifying races on February 12, 1960[60]. The production crew also stayed to broadcast portions of the Daytona 500 itself, two days later. The event was hosted by John S. Palmer. CBS would continue to broadcast portions of races for the next 18 years, along with ABC and NBC[61].


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  59. ^ Hawkins, Jim (2003). "12: Cale Yarborough" (in EN). Tales from the Daytona 500. Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 103 of 200. ISBN 1582615306, 9781582615301.,+Daytona,+1983&ei=1Nm4SuibB4PYNYuy9dsP&client=firefox-a#v=onepage&q=Yarborough%2C%20Daytona%2C%201983&f=false. Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
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