Daytona 500 Pole Press Conference

Polesitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Polesitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

For the eighth consecutive season, a Chevrolet will lead the field to the green flag for the 2020 season-opening NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) race, the Daytona 500. Behind the wheel of the No. 47 Kroger Camaro ZL1 1LE, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. claimed the top spot with a lap of 46.253 seconds/194.582 mph around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway to earn his third NCS career pole, and first for JTG Daugherty Racing since 2015.

Alex Bowman was second quick in his No. 88 Valvoline Camaro ZL1 1LE with a lap of 46.305 seconds at 194.363 mph, and will start on the front row alongside Stenhouse, Jr. in The Great American Race.

“Any time you can start the season off, your first race with an organization, and to see all the work that they’ve put in; guys at the shop that I didn’t even know were working Saturdays and late nights all for the benefit of me to come down here and jump in this car and run fast," said Stenhouse, Jr., about his first season with JTG Daugherty Racing.

“Touring the Hendrick engine shop, they were pumped-up for me to switch over into their horsepower. So, this goes to a lot of people that work hard behind the scenes for me to come out here and drive. It’s a cool way to start Speedweeks" he added.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Hendrick power captured the top-four spots in today’s qualifying session, as Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Camaro ZL1 1LE and Jimmie Johnson, No. 88 Ally Camaro ZL1 1LE were third and fourth, respectively, in the order.

Stenhouse, Jr.’s feat is also the first ever pole win for the all-new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, the 27th Daytona 500 pole for Team Chevy, and its eighth consecutive Daytona 500 pole, which is the longest pole-winning streak of any manufacturer at Daytona International Speedway. The Bowtie Brand now has 717 Cup Series pole victories in NASCAR’s premier racing series.

Beyond positions one and two, the starting order for the rest of the 2020 Daytona 500 field will be determined by the outcome of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel, which will be held on Thursday, February 13.

The Daytona 500 takes place on Sunday, February 16th at 2:30pm ET and will be aired live on FOX, MRN, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.


THE MODERATOR: We are going to get started with our Busch Pole Award winner for next Sunday's 62nd annual Daytona 500. We have Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet. We will open it up for questions.

Q: Ricky, how does it feel to run this new Chevrolet and put it on the pole, extending the streak of poles for the manufacturer?

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it feels way different than the Chevy Camaro that they ran last year. I'm just kidding. I don't know.

It's the best driving Camaro I've ever driven.

No, it's cool to keep the streak, and it's something that you don't really think about when Mr. Hendrick shows up in Victory Lane knowing that we're running his engine package, going to the engine shop and seeing all the guys a couple weeks ago and just saying hey to them, it's something different that I haven't driven. So, to keep the streak alive of the Chevys and Hendrick engines on the pole and on the front row is pretty cool because I know everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing has worked really hard this offâ€'season, and I think that's what makes it special to me is knowing that those guys put in the effort. They put in the work. Not only just the work but they know exactly what to do to make our cars fast, and it's a good way to start our new relationship with JTG.

Q: Do you feel like you need to prove something this year and like today was some first step? Do you know where I'm headed with that?

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: No, yeah, I think there's a handful of us that feel like we have something to prove. And two of those are in my corner with me at JTG Daugherty Racing with Mike and Brian. I know that I feel like I can still get the job done behind the wheel and win races like we did in the Xfinity Series, and I know Brian believes in what the JTG Daugherty â€'â€' their resources that they have at the race shop, the engines, the Chevys. I mean, he just believes in what they have and feel really confident that we're going to be able to show what we both can do together, and I'm excited to continue that relationship.

That was a huge move for me going over there, bringing people that I'm familiar with that have always been in my corner, and to go to a whole brand-new place, I think I'd have been lost not having them there.

But to see the way they mesh with Jodi and Tad and Ernie, the way they've built that place up, they've smoothed transition right in, and just being at the shop with all the new people that the company has, it's been a good offâ€'season, but we definitely have something to prove.

I know that this is Daytona 500 qualifying. It's one lap. It's one weekend. But I know that they're putting the same effort into our Las Vegas car that we're taking to Las Vegas as what they've been putting into our 500 car.

I think this is just signs of things to come, of our speed that we're going to have with our 47 team.

Q: Somebody like Mike who's been with you throughout most of your career, and Brian more recently, what did that do for your confidence coming over to JTG because for two guys just to uproot what they were doing speaks volumes as far as what they felt about your potential.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It does, and Brian has done a lot in this sport on the Cup side and has worked with different drivers and different teams. Mike obviously was with Roush Fenway longer than I was, and for them to follow me over was a lot of confidence that it built up in me that they still felt like I could get the job done, but also they toured the shops, they went through and felt like the resources that JTG Daugherty Racing has are what we need to up our level of competition.

You know, them being in the shop every day, talking to them on the days that I was out dirt racing, just talking about the things that they were getting done in the shop brought a lot of confidence to me, as well, even when I wasn't at the shop.

Having them in there working day in and day out has really helped the transition and helped my confidence.

Q: And you also looked very solid in openâ€'wheel racing in the offâ€'season. How did that help you keep sharp, just â€'â€' Daytona is a completely different animal than anything you do, but how did having the opportunity just to stay in a race car keep you sharp and prepare you for coming in here?

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, definitely ran more midget races this offâ€'season than I have in the past few years, and I'm glad I did that. Just staying in the seat, running more dirt races in a row, got more confidence built up. We were fast at quite a few of those races and felt really good and comfortable in the car. Just enjoyed my offâ€'season, and going to the shop, going dirt racing and just getting prepared for the season, it never hurts when you're behind the wheel of something. I was ready to go when we got here.

Q: Ricky, your fellow competitors have mixed feelings about you on plate races. You've obviously gotten the job done, you've won on these races, you've also been in situations that didn't make you many friends â€'â€'

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Maybe only like two. They act like it's every race.

Q: I wasn't saying it was every race now.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, it's their opinion. Maybe two in the same race. (Laughter.)

Q: Do you think you now have a chance to win this race and will you get the kind of help it's going to take to win it?

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I think I've noticed over the years of speedway racing that when you have a fast car, obviously you get â€'â€' sometimes you get more people to work with you, sometimes you don't. But I noticed we qualified on the pole at Talladega. The car was really fast, and I felt like it was easier for me to make moves knowing that I felt like I had enough speed to pull out of line and get the job done.

You know, that to me is all that really matters is I know what our car is capable of speedâ€'wise, and that helps me make moves.

THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by crew chief Brian Pattie.

Q: I have kind of a similar question. The fact that you have a fast car, how does that change decision making as far as how daring a move you make?

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I think for me in the little drafting that I did on Saturday's practice, you know, the car definitely drives a little bit different. I feel like my moves are going to have to be a little bit more calculated, at least for the Duels. I know Brian, we've already talked about a few things that we need to adjust on our race car for Sunday. I feel like your car on Sunday needs to be a lot different than you qualify and run your Duel with, and so we're going to continue to look at that. I feel like I want to learn a lot Thursday in the Duel to try and figure out what all we need come Sunday because in those practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, you end up getting a little bit of a draft, but you don't get a race draft like you do on Thursday.

We're going to just take notes, and we've got a full week to come up with what we need for Sunday during the 500.

But definitely going to have to be a little bit more calculated when your car is a little bit looser, but when Brian gets it dialed in for me, I'll be able to be aggressive again.

Q: What was the process of this team coming together with all the familiarity and the process of saying we want a lot of familiarity? Were you the first piece, Ricky, and then they asked you what do you need, or was it kind of more methodical and it was kind of by happenstance you guys were available and all ended up here?

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: All of the above.

BRIAN PATTIE: No comment.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: It all just worked out really well. I'm definitely happy the way everything worked out to, like I said, have Brian, have Mike in my corner on the same team and helping that transition. That was one of the pieces is just to be comfortable with somebody and make that transition as smooth as possible.

Q: And kind of on a related note, Brian, just being able to continue the relationships, when you have that familiarity, it makes it a lot easier to hit the ground running this year, right?

BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, I don't have to worry about figuring out driver lingo, what he needs or what he's trying to say. Working together for three years, it's a little bit easier. Yeah, I'm not worried about the communication. It's been there since day one. Obviously, we had success in '17 and we need to get it back there.

Q: Brian, I have to ask you as a fellow central Floridian, this has got to be pretty cool for you to have done this in your home state and I can only imagine how proud you are.

BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, it's cool. We sat on the pole here in the 400 with Biffle in '16, won both Xfinity races here in the 400 and the fall, so this is the last one on the bucket list, and is obviously is a big step. So, this is a step in the right direction, and yeah, it means a lot.

Q: Brian, for people that don't know Ricky, what was it about him that you committed to making this move from your comfortable spot over at Roush and jumping kind of into the unknown at JTG and just following him and being able to be in a position where you could support him?

BRIAN PATTIE: You know, it was multiple things. Obviously, Ricky was a huge part, but just talking to Tad, Tad and Ernie, met with them for three hours. That's a pretty long interview. The crazy thing is we talked about racing maybe 20 percent of the time. So, I wanted to get a feel for how they are characterâ€'wise away from the track, what kind of people they are. And it reminded me a lot of NEMCO. I told them that. Had a lot of success at NEMCO for 11 years, and I want to get back to that.

RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: I bragged him a lot, and I bribed.

Q: As far as Ricky, you know what he can accomplish?

BRIAN PATTIE: Yeah, obviously we've had success, won races, and I think the mentality we have at JTG, it's a racing mentality of just do what it takes, fits me, fits my mold. I'm not a meeting guy. I hate meetings. When you have more than one meeting in a week, it kind of frustrates me, especially when they get nothing accomplished. This program just seems easier, right. They trust what I have to say, and we just do it. We get graded every Sunday night, and obviously we were graded today and we have an A+, but we need to do this for 36 weeks.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations and good luck next Sunday.

Alex Bowman
Alex Bowman


THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet, who will be starting second in next Sunday's Daytona 500 here at Daytona International Speedway. This is the third time Alex has started on the front row for the Daytona 500, and he has been on the front row for four of the last five races here at Daytona. We will open it up to questions.

Q: The front row is becoming a very familiar place for you. Could you talk about this? This has got to be another terrific outing.

ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, for sure. Obviously coming down here for 500 qualifying, everybody at HMS puts so much effort into these speedway cars. As a race car driver there's not much you can do to make them go faster, but you can sure screw them up, so at least I didn't do that.

Just proud of all the guys back at the shop, chassis shop, fab shop. We brought four really good race cars, obviously Hendrick engines and the 47, as well.

Proud of all those guys. I think we're going to have a great race car in the race. Our Clash car has been driving really well, as well. Just excited to be back here with the new Camaro body. I think that's going to be really great for us, and the Valvoline car looks really cool, so it's been a good weekend so far.

Q: Was there any point in your lap where you were like kind of knew it just wasn't there or did you think you had it?

ALEX BOWMAN: Well, getting off of Turn 2, there's a flag at the end of the back straightaway that you can see and kind of see where the wind is at and what it's doing, and the car kind of fell on its face off of Turn 2, and you could see the flag was pointed straight at me, so I knew we had a really big headwind. I wasn't really aware of where the winds were for all the other guys, so I was a little worried about that, but obviously didn't hurt us too bad. Would have liked to have been a little better, but still pretty good.

Q: Alex, is it too soon to tell the difference between the two Chevrolets from last year to this year?

ALEX BOWMAN: Yes and no. I feel like we maybe had a little glimpse of the differences in Clash practice. We drafted a little bit, not a ton, but definitely did a little bit. We'll just have to wait and see. I think how the Clash goes will be a good indication, and then obviously Duels and 500 practice and all that. But I think it looks great. It's been really great on track so far. We've had it on the racetrack once, and it qualified one, two, three, four, so obviously it's working pretty good so far.

Q: You probably haven't had the benefit of this, but we were seeing the Dartfish on FOX. You launched a car length and a half, two car lengths better than him, and it appears what you were talking about sort of came up and got you; by the time you guys got to the line at the warmup lap, you were almost back to equal again. Any frustration that you did everything you could do, the team has done this all year long, and it came up to a puff of wind in your face to take it away?

ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I didn't know that, so I'll take it, though, for sure. I guess if I had a good launch, that's great to hear. That's really the one thing you can do at these speedways qualifying is just try to dial in your launch. It used to be a lot more difficult than it is now. With the actual restrictor plates, the engines literally wouldn't want to take off, and they would kind of stumble and not want to go, and it was all about slipping the clutch, where now with more power they're a little easier to get up to speed, and it's more about minimizing wheel spin and just hitting your shifts right.

Glad I did good there. Disappointed that we didn't get the pole, but still, to qualify second, third year in a row on the front year here for the 500, it's just all about all the hard work that the 88 guys put in back at the shop all winter. It's really cool for them.

Q: Any frustration that all that work, it looked like everything was perfect, it was lined up, you had the pole, and just simply Mother Nature, a puff of wind takes it away?

ALEX BOWMAN: Oh, that's all right. They call me "Bad Luck" Bowman, right, so the wind got me. But who knows. I mean, they may have just had a faster car, and it may have just looked like that.

No, I'm sure everybody was fighting different winds. It's Daytona. It's a windy place, so you can always kind of see that. No, I'm not frustrated at all. We're on the front row for the Daytona 500.

Q: Just curious, during your drafting session yesterday, what did you glean from the new car? Does it feel any different drafting in a pack?

ALEX BOWMAN: I definitely think there were some differences that Chase and I picked up on pretty quickly. I'm going to keep those to myself and hopefully be able to use them to our advantage. But it definitely had some differences. And you know, really just the evolution of the cars, I feel like every speedway race there's some differences, and you pick up on definite things that work and don't work and whatnot.

I think the car was really good. But it was a really small pack, so it's hard to say. Even the Clash is still a pretty small pack to figure out what your car is going to do. I think next Sunday is when we'll really know, but it's been looking really good so far.

Q: And secondly, with so many driver changes over the course since last year, how do you prepare yourself to know who's behind the wheel of what car? Do you rely a lot on your spotter? Do you study the paint schemes? Because who you dance with on Sunday, a lot of that determines how you'll get to the front.

ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I can't really rely on my spotter too well for that. He calls the car numbers wrong all the time. So, like at practice yesterday, he called like the 38 or the 36 the 12 like three times, so it was really funny.

But I think by next Sunday, we'll kind of have â€'â€' every driver will have that figured out, but it is different coming down here with so many different people driving different race cars. But yeah, tell Kevin Hamlin I said that he's bad at reading numbers sometimes.

Q: Everybody says Daytona is kind of a oneâ€'off; it doesn't really tell you what the rest of the year will be like. Have you seen anything to indicate that these Chevrolets will not be good going forward as they are right now today?

ALEX BOWMAN: No. I think everything has been really positive. You know, everything that Chevrolet and all the Chevy teams and everybody at HMS have put into this new car, we're all very performance driven, and we're not going to do things if we don't think they're going to be better. Obviously, everything has been really positive so far. Today has been positive. Hopefully this afternoon goes well.

But when we get to Vegas, we'll really see what we have. I would say that Daytona is not the greatest indicator of how your year is going to go, but at the same time, everything has been really positive so far.

Q: You mentioned you're "Bad Luck" Bowman. You got the qualifying thing figured out. Do we just need a little dose of positive luck for "Bad Luck" to have a chance to win this race?

ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I guess. That's really â€'â€' all my friends call me "Bad Luck" Bowman, and they Photoshopped my face on the Bad Luck Brian meme. I don't know if you've seen that one. But superspeedway racing, everybody wants to say it's all about luck. It's really not. It's really about how you position yourself throughout the day, and sometimes luck comes involved in it and you get caught up in somebody else's mess or something happens right in front of you or whatever, but it's really about how you position yourself and what you do throughout the day, what situations you put yourself in.

I would love to be a super lucky person. Obviously, I'm pretty lucky to get to drive a race car for a living. Sometimes I think situations could go better for me, but I think it's more about the situations you put yourself in.

Q: Are you "Bad Luck" Bowman just because of plate stuff or just in general?

ALEX BOWMAN: No, it's like life things. My best friends are mean. They are mean to me. I'm sure you've seen the Bad Luck Brian in like the plaid and â€'â€' so my face is on that, yeah. There's one of that with my face on it, and my friends write on it all the time and send it in our group chat. So yeah, that's what â€'â€' I surround myself with great people. That's what I get to live with.

But no, it's just what they call me, and we laugh about it all the time.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us, and good luck next Sunday.

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