Roush teammates lock up front row for Daytona 500
Carl Edwards scored his first career Daytona 500 pole while Greg Biffle secured the second position to give Roush-Fenway Racing a sweep of the front row in Sunday’s qualifying session for next Sunday’s 54th running of the Daytona 500.
Edwards was the fifth driver to take to the 2.5-mile track for what would be his eighth Daytona 500 start. His lap of 194.738 mph shot him past Casey Mears for the provisional pole, then sat back and watched as no one was able to pull a faster lap.
Teammate Greg Biffle ran second with a lap of 194.087 mph, but nowhere close to Edwards.
It was the first time Ford has swept the front row at Daytona since 2007 and the first Daytona 500 pole for Roush-Fenway since Biffle took the top spot in 2004.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Edwards. “This is very special. It’s not a driving accomplishment, this is a team accomplishment, this pole. There’s a lot of pride in this for everyone. I’m excited to have all the guys back at the shop this week know they sent the best racecars down to Daytona.”
For Edwards, it was an important step to get the season started on the right foot, after the disappointment of losing last year’s championship battle to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker in the final race of the season.
“Everybody at Roush Fenway went back and worked hard and kept their heads down and dug, and I thank…everybody who builds these racecars for not letting the disappointment of not winning that championship slow us down, but, instead, giving us real motivation.”
Gusty, windy conditions on track during Sunday’s sessions had crew chiefs and drivers alike re-thinking their qualifying strategy. With the wind shifting from a headwind to a tailwind, some drivers got the benefit while others didn’t.
“I’m a little disappointed. I hate the wind,” said Biffle. “I guess if you’re out sailing it’s good, but coming down the front I was 200 RPM more on my first lap than I was my fast lap. That clearly is at least a tenth, tenth-and-a-half, two-tenths of speed. It was singing down the back, but coming down the front I just got a big gust of wind coming off of four or in the short chute and when I went into turn one I knew I didn’t have it. I was so slow going into turn one that I’m surprised we’re second.
“It’s just luck of the draw. Right now you feel the wind is really calm, so it all depends if you get a gust or not.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was the only other driver to break the 194-mile-an-hour mark, going 1940.038 in the no. 88 Chevrolet. Ford pilots Marcos Ambrose (193.999) and Mears (193.844) rounded out the top five.
Martin Truex, Jr. was the fastest Toyota, qualifying seventh, while A.J. Allmendinger led the Dodge’s with an 18th-place effort.
Danica Patrick, looking to become only the third female drivers to start a Daytona 500, qualified 29, but a point-swap with Tommy Baldwin Racing assures her a starting spot in the field.
“It felt better than it did in practice, so I thought surely this is a good sign,” said Patrick. “But as a driver, you just try and go through the gears smooth and be smooth on the track. And beyond that, there’s really not a lot more we can do.
“This morning I watched some of the videos from some of the other drivers out there that we get provided as a team, and I was looking at their lines and that was about it. I turned down onto the banking a little bit quicker because of watching the videos than I did in practice.”
Only the top two positions were locked in during Sunday’s qualifying, with the rest of the Daytona 500 field to be set by the finishing order of Thursday’s twin 150-mile Gatorade Duel races.
Teams that finished in the top 35 in points in 2011 are guaranteed a starting spot in the race, with the top three qualifiers from Sunday who are outside the top-35 in points also assured a starting spot. The final four spots in the field will be up for grabs in the Gatorade Duel races.
Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne made the field thanks to his qualifying effort, along with Tony Raines and David Stremme. 1996 Sprint Cup Champion Terry Labonte is also locked into the field with a Past Champions Provisional.
That puts six drivers in the hunt for the four remaining spots in the Great American Race, among those is two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and 1988 Sprint Cup Champion Bill Elliott.
Clint Bowyer’s no. 15 Toyota failed post-qualifying inspection and him time was disallowed, however with his team in the top-35 in points he is locked into the field for the race.
+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie
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