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Daytona 500 Qualifying: Winning the Pole This Week Doesn't Guarantee Race Succes

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 13:  Front Row award winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, and Pole award winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, pose with their teams in victory lane after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Mike HoagCorrespondent IIFebruary 17, 2013

The last Daytona 500 pole winner to actually win the race was Dale Jarrett in 2000. Twelve races have come and passed with the pole winner failing to cash in on his advantage.

There have only been two Daytona 500s won from the pole, coming in back-to-back races, since Bill Elliott won the pole three years in a row and won the race itself twice in 1985 and ’87.

Geoff Bodine, a retired racer, never won a pole at Daytona, but did win 27 consecutive at other tracks before winning his first ensuing race.

It’s not unheard of in motorsports, but it’s interesting enough to note the lack of productivity that it yields for winners at Daytona.

Winning the pole during Sunday’s qualifying laps does have some perks. It will give that driver a good advantage, solidifying him or her into the lead position for the big dance on Feb. 24. Second place will also earn a guaranteed place ahead of the pack on the starting line.

No matter what happens during Thursday’s Budweiser Duels, the two top finishers in qualifying will be a lock to compete on Sunday—when it counts.

In all reality, winning the pole is a novelty, as many of the top drivers will have no problems qualifying through the two duels later in the week. It’s a novelty, and a nice one, that allows a driver to lead the pack into the green flag at the most prestigious NASCAR race of them all.

That’s where it ends, though, and the real challenge begins. It takes a completely well-tuned and polished team to win this big race. It’s coming off of some down time and crew changes, too, so it should be interesting to see who brings their A-game to Daytona.

It’s a big honor to win the pole, but it doesn’t mean much in terms of winning the race. Honors and novelties aside, the biggest prize of them all is to walk away a champion at the historic and distinguished racetrack.

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