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Runner-up in '11, Edwards now on top
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
Carl Edwards is second no more.
NASCAR returns to FOX at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday. The green flag drops at 6 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Just three months removed from finishing as runner-up to Tony Stewart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship after a last-lap duel in the season-ending race, Edwards rocketed to the top of the charts at Daytona International Speedway and won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX).
“It feels nice to pick up right where we left off,” Edwards said. “... This is nice to come here and show everyone that, hey, it isn’t just talk. Everybody at Roush Fenway went back and worked hard and kept their heads down and dug.
“(I thank everybody) who builds these race cars for not letting the disappointment of not winning that championship slow us down, but instead giving us real motivation.”
The 32-year-old ran a fast lap of 194.738 mph to edge Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, who was the pre-qualifying favorite to win the pole after leading the two practice sessions Saturday afternoon.
“This is very special,” Edwards said. “It’s not a driving accomplishment, this is a team accomplishment.
“This is about the team. There’s a lot of pride in this for everyone.”
It is the fastest pole-winning speed since 1999.
The result breaks a four-year stranglehold by Chevrolet on the pole position for The Great American Race. This is the seventh time in history that Ford has swept the front row for Daytona and the first time since 2007.
“Our team is just incredible,” team co-owner Jack Roush said. “I’m really blessed to have the people behind it and be able to work with Ford Motor Company and all their support they give to us.”
The top qualifying result is Edwards’ best in his eighth Daytona 500 qualifying attempt. His best career finish in the 500 came last season when he finished second to Trevor Bayne.
A polesitter has gone on to win the Daytona 500 nine times, a feat most recently accomplished by Dale Jarrett in 2000.
Edwards was working with substitute crew chief Chip Bolin this weekend. Bob Osborne, his regular crew chief, missed Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout and Sunday’s qualifying after the death of his father. He is expected to be atop the pit box by the Gatorade Duel races Thursday.
The drama wasn’t constrained to just the speed charts.
Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection after it was found that its front left was too low. It is the second time a car has failed NASCAR inspection at Daytona after Jimmie Johnson’s car did not pass opening-day inspection on Friday.
Aside from starting at the rear of his qualifying race on Thursday, no further penalties are expected for Bowyer.
Sunday’s qualifying session serves only to lock in the front row for the Daytona 500, with the rest of the starting lineup set after Thursday’s Gatorade Duel qualifying races.
That said, the majority of the 43-car field for next week’s race is now guaranteed a spot for a variety of factors. Teams that finished in the top 35 in owner points last year have guaranteed spots in next Sunday’s race, as well as the top three “Go or Go homers” on the speed charts – drivers whose teams do not have locked-in spots.
Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines and David Stremme were the fastest of those not locked in during qualifying, so they have secured a spot in the race. Terry Labonte earned the past champion's provisional and locked into the field as well. Where they start will be determined by Thursday’s results.
Four spots in the 43-car field remain available. The top-two finishers in each of Thursday’s 150-mile Duel races will get those spots. If any of the "Go or Go Home" drivers who locked into the race via speed - Bayne, Raines and Stremme - take those spots, the next fastest eligible driver not locked in will take the spot.
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