CUP: Earnhardt Speeds To Coors Light Pole For Final Daytona Start

Jacob Seelman Cup, Featured 0 Comments

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Friday. (NASCAR photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In a reversal of February’s Daytona 500 qualifying script, Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott’s heart on Friday, winning the pole for his final scheduled Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series appearance at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

Sweeping both rounds of knockout qualifying, Earnhardt posted a quick lap of 47.127 seconds (190.973 mph) in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet to earn his 14th-career Cup pole and second on the 2.5-mile high banks.

The effort for Earnhardt breaks a four-year drought in qualifying for the perennial fan favorite, dating back to Sept. 29, 2013 at Dover Int’l Speedway.

“Finally!” said Earnhardt, whose other Daytona pole came during the 2011 Daytona 500. “I have to give (Hendrick Motorsports) a lot of credit, particularly for me personally … it’s been the 24 bunch. We’ve been pushing each other over the last several years in qualifying at Daytona and Talladega. It’s been a healthy competition and I think that’s why we win poles and qualify so well at some of these race tracks is that healthy competition within the company.”

“Bernie and Greg and all the (team) guys deserve all the credit. I don’t do anything in qualifying but just hold the wheel and make sure I don’t hit the apron; otherwise, the car does everything … so a lot of credit to the power and the body guys back at the shop. All of that stuff’s so critical and they did a good job today.”

Elliott, who was the second-to-last car to go out in the final round, landed second on the board with a lap of 47.171 seconds (190.795 mph) in his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet.

The Dawsonville, Ga. native is still chasing his first Cup victory after several near-misses, including running out of fuel while leading in the final laps of the Daytona 500 in February.

“It was definitely close,” Elliott admitted. “I’m happy for those guys. Obviously we would have loved to outrun them there, but it’s so hard to tell when you’re out there making your lap how it’s going to be or if you did anything any better. I’m proud of our team; we improved a little bit from round one to round two … which is nice, but we just didn’t improve enough. We’ll go to work tomorrow and I’m excited for this race. It’s such a cool race. I think it’s gonna be exciting.”

Defending Coke Zero 400 winner Brad Keselowski timed in third-fastest (47.297/190.287) for Team Penske in the No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford, followed by a third Hendrick Chevrolet in Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick’s Ford.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson completed the dozen drivers who competed in both rounds of knockout qualifying.

In a shocking twist, not one Toyota-powered car transferred through out of the first knockout round, with Matt Kenseth posting the best lap for the manufacturer in 13th (47.543/189.302) and being the first car below the cut line.

Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch timed in 15th-quick, just ahead of his younger brother Kyle, who was the fastest man in Thursday’s practice sessions but could only muster the 16th-fastest lap in single-car runs.

Other notables included Erik Jones (17th), Coca-Cola 600 winner Austin Dillon (19th), points leader Kyle Larson (21st), Martin Truex Jr. (25th) and former July race winner David Ragan (30th).

Darrell Wallace Jr. will start 31st in the famed No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The Coke Zero 400 takes the green flag at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, with live coverage on NBC, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…

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