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Chase Elliott dominates qualifying for third Daytona pole

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A sprained ankle didn’t prevent Chase Elliott from putting his foot to the floorboard on Friday at Daytona International Speedway.

Elliott powered around the 2.5-mile track in 46.381 seconds (194.045 mph) to win the pole position for Sunday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by a whopping .24 seconds over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman (193.046 mph).

The Busch Pole Award was Elliott’s first of the season and the fourth of his career, all of which have come at restrictor-plate superspeedways-three of them at Daytona.

With Jimmie Johnson qualifying fourth at 192.361 mph, Hendrick Chevrolets took three of the top four starting positions for the 18th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season. Third-place qualifier Brad Keselowski broke up the monopoly with a lap at 192.802 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

Earlier in the week, Elliott sprained his right ankle-the one that mashes the accelerator-while “horsing around at the pool.” He had the ankle X-rayed at the infield care center at the track.

“I didn’t really want to do that, so I’ve been trying to draw as least amount of attention as possible to that,” Elliott said. “But it’s all good. Yeah, had a little ankle sprain, but we are good and ready to go.”

Saturday’s race will mark Elliott’s 95th start in NASCAR’s top series. Those 94 events have produced 26 top five’s-including eight runner-up results-but no wins.

“I think it gives everybody confidence,” Elliott said of the pole-winning effort. “Having a good pit stall is certainly nice. That can matter at the end of these races. Sharing the front row with your teammate is also nice, too.

“So we’ll just have to see. The race is a whole different ballgame, but to have speed in our Chevrolet is nice, and to have (sponsor) Hooters for their first race of the season on the pole is cool, too. Looking forward to tomorrow night.”

Kevin Harvick qualified fifth, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Michael McDowell and Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon. Seven Fords and five Chevrolets made the final round. Reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. will start 13th in the top-qualifying Toyota.

With rain wiping out Thursday’s second Cup practice, Friday’s time trials were more of a question mark than they otherwise would have been.

“It was OK, I think-you never know what you’re going to get here,” Truex said of his starting position. “Not much practice yesterday, and we didn’t do any qualifying runs, so we just kind of winged it. I think 13th will be an OK starting spot.”

Series leader Kyle Busch earned the 15th spot on the grid.

— NASCAR Wire Service —