Teams put a lot of effort into winning the Daytona 500 pole. But does winning the pole give you any advantage in winning the race?
Where Do Daytona 500 Pole Winners Finish?
The graph below shows the finishing positions of all Daytona 500 pole winners from 1972-2021. Red means the driver didn’t finish the race.
The amount of crosshatching tells you how many accidents each officially had. There’s a little squirm room for the older races; not all have caution summaries. The highest number of accidents was three (Austin Dillon, 2014).
One problem is that the pole is determined by the fastest single-car qualifying runs and Daytona races are determined by drafting. Winning the pole may mean you have a fast car, but fast isn’t everything at Daytona.
But the graph above shows that, of the 21 races between 2001 and 2021,
- Only 6 polesitters (28.5%) were not involved in accidents
- Which means the rest (71.5%) were involved in accidents.
- Only four polesitters failed to finish the race in this range.
- Not a single Daytona 500 winner has started from the front row since 2000.
- Since 2104, every polesitter has been involved in at least one accident, although only two DNF-ed.
In the early days, the most likely reason a polesitter didn’t finish well was that he didn’t finish the race. If a polewinner survived all 500 laps, he had a good chance of winning, or at least finishing in the top ten.
Both the number of accidents and the numbers of cars involved in accidents has gone up over the years. A driver is much more likely to be involved in a wreck these days compare to the 70s and 80s.
Although there used to be a correlation between getting the pole and winning the Daytona 500, there isn’t any more.