Elliott edges teammate Byron to win pole

Chase Elliott holds the Busch Pole flag for the Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway on Friday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Chase Elliott finished out front the last time the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Dover International Speedway.

This time, he’ll start out front.

Elliott won the pole Friday afternoon for Sunday’s Gander RV 400 at the Monster Mile. Elliott broke the track record in the process with a lap of 21.692 (165.960 mph).

Brad Keselowski previously held the track record at 21.892 (164.444) in 2014.

Elliott also became the youngest pole-winner at Dover at 23-years-old, besting Jeff Gordon’s previous record.

William Byron almost had both of those records.

Byron, Elliott’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, qualified early and held the top spot for nearly the entire session. Elliott, one of the final 10 cars out, knocked Byron off the pole by .053 seconds.

Byron, a 21-year-old, still ended up second, meaning an all Hendrick Motorsports front row on Sunday.

“Team Hendrick is 1-2 which is awesome,” Elliott said. “It’s going to be a really tough race so you better eat your Wheaties these next couple of days and hydrate because I think Sunday is going to be tough.”

Elliott is not only the defending race winner at Dover, but comes into the weekend having won his first race of the season last week at Talladega.

This was Elliott’s sixth career pole in 124 Cup Series races and second of the season. It was his first all-time at Dover.

Friday also marked the return of single-car qualifying to the Cup Series. Instead of qualifying through three different rounds as a group, the drivers each went out one at a time and had two laps to put down their best time.

That, coupled with a new racing package which adds downforce, delivered some never-before-seen speed Friday. After the first practice session earlier in the day, it was apparent whoever won the pole would set the track record.

Not like Elliott was intimidated by the high speeds.

“We get paid to go fast, so let’s go fast,” he said prior to qualifying.

Chevrolets took four of the top-five starting spots.

Kyle Larson was third and another Hendrick Motorsports driver, Alex Bowman, was fifth. Joey Logano in a Ford was fourth as the only non-Chevrolet in the top-five.

Kevin Harvick was six followed by Aric Almirola who was seventh. Denny Hamlin was the best-qualifying Toyota in eighth followed by Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer to round out the top-10.

Jimmie Johnson, the Cup Series wins record-holder at Dover with 11, will start 12th.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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