William Byron wins Daytona 500 pole; teammate Alex Bowman second

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It will be a Hendrick Motorsports front row for the Daytona 500. Again.

In his first on-track pairing with crew chief Chad Knaus, William Byron captured the pole (194.305 mph) and teammate Alex Bowman, who won last year’s 500 pole, will sit on the outside of the front row (194.154 mph).

It marked the fifth consecutive Daytona 500 pole for a Hendrick Chevrolet and the first of Byron’s Cup career.

“I thought the Chevy was real fast,” Byron told Fox Sports. “Credit to Chad and all the guys. It’s been a great offseason. We’re prepared. This is the first step of our process together.”

The last driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole was NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Jarrett in 2000.

Only the starting positions for Byron and Bowman are locked in, though Hendrick drivers swept the top four spots in Sunday’s qualifying. Two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, who will start his first Cup race with crew chief Kevin Meendering after 16 seasons with Knaus, was third (193.807 mph), followed by Chase Elliott (193.782 mph).

The remainder of the 40-car field for the 500 will be set during Thursday’s two qualifying races.

Tyler Reddick and Casey Mears locked themselves into two of the four non-charter spots for the 500 via qualifying speeds Sunday. The other two non-charter entries will be determined Thursday during the qualifiers.

A total of six Chevrolet Camaros (including all four Hendrick Motorsports entries), four Ford Mustangs and two Toyota Camrys made the second and final 12-car qualifying round.

The rest of the second-round qualifiers were Daniel Hemric (192.460 mph), defending Cup champion Joey Logano (192.448), Martin Truex Jr. (192.353), Clint Bowyer (192.291), Brad Keselowski (192.263), defending Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon (191.416), Paul Menard (191.107) and Denny Hamlin (190.492).

Click here for full qualifying results.

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Preliminary Daytona 500 entry list released

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Forty-two cars are on the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 17 Daytona 500.

NASCAR released the entry list Wednesday night.

Among those on the entry list are: Casey Mears (No. 27, Germain Racing), Reigning Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick (No. 31, Richard Childress Racing), Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Beard Motorsports), Joey Gase (No. 66, Motorsports Business Management), Ryan Truex (No. 71, Tommy Baldwin Racing) and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman (No. 96, Gaunt Brothers Racing).

Click here for Daytona 500 entry list

MORE: Full Daytona Speedweeks schedule 

Casey Mears entered in second Germain Racing car for Daytona 500

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Germain Racing will use the Feb. 17 Daytona 500 to field a second car for the first time since 2011 and it will be piloted by former full-time driver Casey Mears.

Mears, who raced for Germain from 2010-16 in Cup, will drive the No. 27 Chevrolet. The team will be built and staffed through a partnership with Premium Motorsports. Pat Tryson will serve as crew chief.

Mears will be teammates with Ty Dillon, the current driver of Germain’s No. 13 Chevrolet.

“I have considered running a second car in the Daytona 500 for years,” owner Bob Germain said in a press release. “My immediate focus is still on our No. 13 team and the full season that Ty Dillon will run. However, when the chance to field a second car with Casey Mears came together this year with Jay Robinson building the car and providing the at-track crew, I wanted to jump on it.

“The Daytona 500 is a race that our team, sponsors and fans are all passionate about, and I am too. In a race where anything can happen, having a second entry is an exciting opportunity. Casey has been a part of our Germain Racing family for years, and I’m grateful that he’s willing to get behind the wheel for me again in this one race.”

Without a charter for the car, Mears is not guaranteed starting spot in the race.

Mears didn’t make any NASCAR starts in 2018.

He last competed in the 2017 Xfinity season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Biagi-DenBeste Racing.

Mears has 25 career Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway, with a best finish of second in the 2006 Daytona 500.

The addition of Mears makes for at least eight unchartered cars that could be entered into the Daytona 500.

With a maximum field of 40 cars, four will not make the field.

The uncharted cars include:

Mears

Tyler Reddick (No. 31 for Richard Childress Racing)

Ryan Truex (No. 71 for Tommy Baldwin Racing)

Joey Gase (No. 66 for MBM Motorsports)

Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 for Beard Motorsports)

Tanner Berryhill (No. 97 for Obaika Racing)

Parker Kligerman (No. 96 for Gaunt Brothers Racing)

JJ Yeley (No. 7 for NY Racing).

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NASCAR America: Hendrick Motorsports still has ground to make up

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Hendrick Motorsports may have turned a corner with top-10 runs at Pocono Raceway last week from Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott, but they still have some ground to make up according to NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill.

Kligerman puts some of the blame for the lack of performance during the first half of the regular season on the Optical Scanning Station.

“Some of these teams, especially Hendrick Motorsports going to the new Chevy body, were maybe caught a little off guard with it and how they were able to maximize the things they need do in that inspection system to make sure their cars are producing the most downforce, to therefore create the most speed,” Kligerman said.

Cassill believes their biggest handicap could be a lack of experience among the current crop of drivers.

“We’ve talked about Hendrick’s struggles as a team at the beginning of the season,” Cassill said. “Well, is it driver or cars because the average age of drivers at Hendrick Motorsports this year is lower than we’ve ever seen in that organization, so they definitely have less experience, with the exception of Jimmie Johnson, than the company has ever had.”

Johnson is 42 years old, Alex Bowman is 25, Elliott is 22 and William Byron is 20, making the average age at the start of the 2018 season 27.0.

At the beginning of the 2003 season, the average age of Hendrick Motorsports drivers was 35.8 with Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Joe Nemechek and Terry Labonte behind the wheel.

In 2008, Johnson and Gordon were joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears and the average age was 31.3.

Five years later in 2013, Mears was replaced with Kasey Kahne and the average age rose to 37.0.

For more, watch the video above.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.