Daytona 500 2012 Qualifying Preview: Who Will Win NASCAR's Most Prestigious Pole?

Who is going to win the pole for the Daytona 500?

While it may sound like an unanswerable question due to the unpredictability that is restrictor-plate racing, the truth is it's really not that random.

At the very least, using recent history as our guide along with speeds from today's opening round of practice, we can narrow it down to a select few drivers who will almost certainly be challenging for the honor of leading the field to the green flag in next Sunday's Daytona 500.

The first of the two Daytona 500 qualifying practice sessions has traditionally been more accurate because some drivers don't participate in the final hour.

Here is where the fastest driver in practice eventually qualified for the Daytona 500 – and more telling, where the eventual pole-sitter ranked on the speed charts after the first session.

Year Fastest in practice Qualified Pole Winner First practice
2011 Mark Martin 8th Dale Earnhardt Jr. 4th
2010 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2nd Mark Martin 2nd
2009 Bill Elliott 5th Martin Truex Jr. 4th
2008 Jimmie Johnson 1st Jimmie Johnson 1st
2007 Ricky Rudd 2nd David Gilliland 2nd

So looking at the last five years, the person who won the pole position for the 500 was no worse than fourth in the opening round of practice. Using this as our barometer, as well as the speeds from practice earlier today, that means the Daytona 500 pole-sitter is likely to be one of the drivers who posted one of the top four speeds in first practice: Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Gordon or Trevor Bayne.

Considering Gordon is the only Chevy driver among the top four, there is a 75 percent chance a car with a blue oval on its hood will win the pole on Sunday.

So let's prematurely congratulate Biffle, Ambrose or Bayne on their accomplishment.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.