The ‘chosen one’ wins pole for Daytona 500 in No. 3

Everyone expected the No. 3 to be on the pole for the Daytona 500.

As everyone expected when it was announced Dale Earnhardt's number would be back in the Sprint Cup Series – The No. 3 is No. 1 again.

The iconic number made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt is back in NASCAR's premier series and it's on the pole for the Daytona 500.

Austin Dillon, driving for his grandfather Richard Childress — who helped lead Earnhardt to six of his seven NASCAR Cup championships — ripped off a fast lap of 196.019 mph Sunday.

"I feel like our engines have been really good since we've been here (at Daytona). … I just had to get my shifts. And I knew that hopefully I could hold the wheel straight for two laps," Dillon said.

A new 'star' in the making
Getty Images for NASCAR

The return of the number — last seen here at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18, 2001 when Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500 — has left NASCAR's fan base divided.

Many fans of the iconic driver wanted to see the number retired to honor him. Others believe having the number active on the track honors the legacy left by one of NASCAR's brashest, biggest talents. Childress has owned the number and decided this was the year to return it.

Dillon, who won the 2011 trucks title and the 2013 Nationwide title, is moving up full-time into Cup this year at Richard Childress Racing.

"I'm proud of Austin and the whole team at RCR," Mike Dillon, Austin's dad, told Fox after his son's qualifying run.

Austin Dillon, the 'chosen one' wins pole in his debut with Dale Earnhardt's No. 3

Both Dillon and Truex Jr. have set their starting positions in the Daytona 500 as first and second, respectively. The rest of the drivers will race in the Budweiser Duel events to determine their position in the race.

“Yeah, front row that is what we are here for today," said Truex. “Obviously I can’t say enough about this team. What a great job. I think we have got about seven miles on this car. One run yesterday, no testing down here, just an amazing job by Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and Cole Pearn (team engineer) and everybody on the team.

“Obviously I am a pretty lucky guy to get to hold the wheel. ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing) engines front row, we are lucky to have them under the hood and just have to thank everyone for the hard work. Really excited about the rest of Speedweeks."

Danica Patrick, who topped Coors Light Pole qualifying in 2013, and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Tony Stewart finished 25th and 35th, respectively, during qualifying. Both drivers suffered blown engines during practice Saturday and will start at the rear for their respective Duel races, as well as the Daytona 500.

The Daytona Duels will take place Thursday, with the first 150-miler beginning at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Drivers will duel for 60 laps to earn their positions in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

The field for each Duel is determined by assigning the cars that earned odd-numbered positions from qualifying to the first Duel race. The cars that earned even-numbered positions from qualifying will compete in the second Duel race. The starting positions for each Duel race will be based on the driver's qualifying times.

The top 15 finishers in each Duel race — excluding Dillon and Truex Jr. who are starting first and second in the field — will earn an automatic spot in the Daytona 500, filling positions 3-32.

Qualifying Results

Pos No. Driver Team Time Speed Behind Gap
1 3 Austin Dillon DOW Chevrolet 45.914 196.019 0.000 0.000
2 78 Martin Truex. Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 45.953 195.852 0.039 0.039
3 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 45.961 195.818 0.047 0.008
4 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford 45.986 195.712 0.072 0.025
5 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 45.987 195.707 0.073 0.001
6 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 46.084 195.296 0.170 0.097
7 88 Dale Earnhardt. Jr. National Guard Chevrolet 46.104 195.211 0.190 0.020
8 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 46.144 195.042 0.230 0.040
9 17 Ricky Stenhouse. Jr. Nationwide Insurance Ford 46.153 195.004 0.239 0.009
10 27 Paul Menard Peak/Menards Chevrolet 46.173 194.919 0.259 0.020
11 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford 46.179 194.894 0.265 0.006
12 33 Brian Scott(i) Whitetail Chevrolet 46.207 194.776 0.293 0.028
13 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 46.235 194.658 0.321 0.028
14 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 46.240 194.637 0.326 0.005
15 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 46.253 194.582 0.339 0.013
16 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 46.253 194.582 0.339 0.000
17 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 46.255 194.574 0.341 0.002
18 7 Michael Annett # Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers Chevrolet 46.255 194.574 0.341 0.000
19 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 46.262 194.544 0.348 0.007
20 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota 46.267 194.523 0.353 0.005
21 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 46.272 194.502 0.358 0.005
22 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 46.278 194.477 0.364 0.006
23 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet 46.291 194.422 0.377 0.013
24 42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet 46.294 194.410 0.380 0.003
25 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 46.301 194.380 0.387 0.007
26 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 46.312 194.334 0.398 0.011
27 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger/USO Chevrolet 46.366 194.108 0.452 0.054
28 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 46.373 194.078 0.459 0.007
29 36 Reed Sorenson Golden Corral Chevrolet 46.376 194.066 0.462 0.003
30 51 Justin Allgaier # Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet 46.436 193.815 0.522 0.060
31 38 David Gilliland Love's Travel Stops Ford 46.455 193.736 0.541 0.019
32 40 Landon Cassill(i) Hillman Racing Chevrolet 46.456 193.732 0.542 0.001
33 30 Parker Kligerman # Swan Energy Toyota 46.489 193.594 0.575 0.033
34 66 Michael Waltrip BlueDEF/AAA Toyota 46.529 193.428 0.615 0.040
35 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet 46.544 193.365 0.630 0.015
36 35 Eric McClure(i) Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap Ford 46.655 192.905 0.741 0.111
37 55 Brian Vickers Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 46.681 192.798 0.767 0.026
38 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 46.706 192.695 0.792 0.025
39 26 Cole Whitt # Speed Stick Gear Toyota 46.744 192.538 0.830 0.038
40 34 David Ragan CSX – Play It Safe Ford 46.795 192.328 0.881 0.051
41 95 Michael McDowell K-Love Ford 46.804 192.291 0.890 0.009
42 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 46.842 192.135 0.928 0.038
43 98 Josh Wise Curb Records Ford 46.860 192.061 0.946 0.018
44 52 Bobby Labonte Phoenix Construction Chevrolet 46.999 191.493 1.085 0.139
45 87 Joe Nemechek(i) 300 Rise of an Empire Toyota 47.249 190.480 1.335 0.250
46 83 Ryan Truex # Borla Exhaust Toyota 47.282 190.347 1.368 0.033
47 23 Alex Bowman # Dr.Pepper Toyota 47.447 189.685 1.533 0.165
48 93 Morgan Shepherd(i) SupportMilitary.org Toyota 47.483 189.542 1.569 0.036
49 77 Dave Blaney Plinker Arms Ford DNS 45.914 47.483

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