DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — William Byron put Hendrick Motorsports in a familiar position: on the pole for the Daytona 500. His bigger goal is to make the starting spot pay dividends for the NASCAR powerhouse.

The 21-year-old Byron and 25-year-old teammate Alex Bowman locked in the front row for “The Great American Race” during qualifying laps Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. They comprise the youngest front row in Daytona 500 history.

The coveted starting spot hasn’t meant much for NASCAR’s season opener over the last two decades, though. The last pole-sitter to win the Daytona 500 was Dale Jarrett in 2000.

The last four – Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliott (twice) and Bowman – have failed to finish in the top 10.

“To have them on top of each other means the organization did a heck of a job,” Hendrick said. “This is the deal to sit on the pole at Daytona.”

Byron and Bowman edged the other two Hendrick drivers: seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and fan favorite Chase Elliott.

Byron reached a top speed of 194.304 mph in the final round of qualifying, nearly two-tenths of a second faster than Bowman (194.153).

“I thought we were going to be somewhere in the hunt,” Byron said. “I was excited to get down here and see what we had. It’s really cool.”

The rest of the 40-car lineup will be set by two qualifying races Thursday. Thirty-six of those spots are already filled because of NASCAR’s charter system.

Former Hendrick driver Casey Mears and Tyler Reddick secured two of the remaining spots. They posted the top speeds of the six drivers vying for four open spots in the opener.

Joey Gase, Ryan Truex, Parker Kligerman and Brandan Gaughan likely will have to race their way into the 500 during the qualifying races. Two of them will make it, and the other two won’t.

NASCAR EJECTED the car chiefs for Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon and Austin Dillon through the Daytona 500 for repeated inspection failures before qualifying.

JIMMIE JOHNSON triggered a wreck that wiped out nearly the entire field at Daytona and zipped to the lead to win the rain-shortened exhibition Clash on Sunday.

The seven-time Cup Series champion failed to win a race last season for the first time in his career but a dose of aggression put him back in victory lane in the first weekend of Speedweeks, continuing the banner day for Hendrick.