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Earnhardt wins pole for Daytona 500

On 10th anniversary of his Daddy's death
Sunday, February 13, 2011

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
You could not write a better movie script if you tried.  In Sunday's qualifying session at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's biggest star, gave the sagging series the shot in the arm it needed by edging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the top starting spot in next Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500.

Turning a lap in 48.364 seconds (186.089 mph), Earnhardt claimed the 10th Coors Light pole award of his career and his first at a restrictor-plate superspeedway. He'll try to win NASCAR's most prestigious race for the second time in the 400th start of his Cup career.

With NASCAR's hope that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be leading at the time, Daytona International Speedway is asking for a moment of silence on the third lap of the Daytona 500 as a tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt was killed in an accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 because NASCAR refused to mandate the HANS Device. The speedway considered various ways to mark the 10-year anniversary of Earnhardt's death. "We felt the appropriate way to honor Dale Earnhardt was in the actual racing," said track president Joie Chitwood.

"The best way to appreciate the things Dale did -- he was about racing -- and how we respect him should be on the track. That to us was a real racing tribute and more appropriate than anything we could have done in the pre-race show." Chitwood said track officials were working with the broadcast partners to go silent on the third lap of the Feb. 20 race. Fans will also be asked to stand and raise three fingers on that lap. The #3 will also be painted into the grass at Daytona on Saturday night before the season-opening race and you can bet Dale Jr. will be leading on lap 3. NASCAR will make sure of that.

Jeff Gordon (L) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start on the Front Row next Sunday
Getty Images for NASCAR
What Earnhardt -- and Gordon, for that matter -- won't have to worry about is racing for position in Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Under the unique qualify procedure for the Daytona 500, the two fastest drivers in time trials are locked into the front row.

The rest of the field for the 53rd running of the Great American Race won't be set until the Duels are completed.

"The main thing [the pole] does for me is take the pressure off Thursday's race," said Earnhardt, who will start from the top spot in the first qualifying race. "I can go out and have fun and not worry about where I finish or getting a good starting spot for the Daytona 500."

Gaining a slight edge through Turn 1, Earnhardt narrowly beat Gordon (48.396 seconds, 185.966 mph) for the top spot on the grid.

It was the third Daytona 500 front-row sweep for Hendrick Motorsports, which placed Ken Schrader and Darrell Waltrip first and second in 1989. Mark Martin won the pole for last year's 500, with Earnhardt starting on the outside of the front row.

Rookie Trevor Bayne (185.445) was third fastest in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, followed by Richard Childress Racing teammates Paul Menard (185.422), Clint Bowyer (185.223) and Jeff Burton (185.071).

Bayne was elated by his strong run -- and equally impressed by the drivers starting ahead of him.

"If I'm going to get knocked off by somebody, I'm sure the fans were glad it was Dale Jr.," said Bayne, who briefly held the second spot before Earnhardt's pole-winning run. "But to be sitting third behind two of the most well-known drivers in NASCAR -- and Jeff Gordon my childhood hero -- I mean, this is incredible."

Results

POS

CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 186.089 48.364 Leader
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 185.966 48.396 -0.032
3 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 185.445 48.532 -0.168
4 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Peak / Menards 185.422 48.538 -0.174
5 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 185.223 48.590 -0.226
6 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 185.071 48.630 -0.266
7 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 185.003 48.648 -0.284
8 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 184.991 48.651 -0.287
9 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 184.911 48.672 -0.308
10 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 184.911 48.672 -0.308
11 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 184.896 48.676 -0.312
12 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 184.763 48.711 -0.347
13 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 184.748 48.715 -0.351
14 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 184.740 48.717 -0.353
15 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 184.687 48.731 -0.367
16 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 184.612 48.751 -0.387
17 09 Bill Elliott Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 184.532 48.772 -0.408
18 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 184.475 48.787 -0.423
19 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Best Buy 184.290 48.836 -0.472
20 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 184.271 48.841 -0.477
21 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM FM Energy 184.222 48.854 -0.490
22 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal Black 184.102 48.886 -0.522
23 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 184.019 48.908 -0.544
24 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 184.008 48.911 -0.547
25 115 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 183.966 48.922 -0.558
26 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 183.794 48.968 -0.604
27 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 183.685 48.997 -0.633
28 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 183.681 48.998 -0.634
29 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 183.602 49.019 -0.655
30 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 183.595 49.021 -0.657
31 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kroger / USO 183.576 49.026 -0.662
32 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 183.557 49.031 -0.667
33 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 183.456 49.058 -0.694
34 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 183.206 49.125 -0.761
35 60 Todd Bodine Toyota Tire Kingdom / Valvoline 183.057 49.165 -0.801
36 97 Kevin Conway Toyota Extenze 182.949 49.194 -0.830
37 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 182.867 49.216 -0.852
38 34 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 182.697 49.262 -0.898
39 77 Steve Wallace Toyota 5-Hour Energy 182.574 49.295 -0.931
40 66 Michael McDowell Toyota HP Racing LLC 182.434 49.333 -0.969
41 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Speed Energy 182.120 49.418 -1.054
42 32 Terry Labonte Ford U.S. Chrome 181.492 49.589 -1.225
43 37 Robert Richardson Jr. Ford North Texas Pipe 181.466 49.596 -1.232
44 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 181.316 49.637 -1.273
45 46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Red Line Oil 180.977 49.730 -1.366
46 71 Andy Lally Chevrolet Adobe Road Winery 180.828 49.771 -1.407
47 64 Derrike Cope Toyota Sta-Bil 177.894 50.592 -2.228
48 192 Brian Keselowski Dodge K-Automotive Motorsports 177.581 50.681 -2.317

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