BRISTOL, Tenn. – Carl Edwards lived up to his nickname, “Concrete Carl,” and stole the Coors Light Pole Award away from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin on Friday evening at Bristol Motor Speedway.
While Hamlin led the first two rounds of knockout qualifying, Edwards pounced in the third and final one. The Columbia, Missouri native posted a lap of 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) around the 0.533-mile concrete oval to score his 21st career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole, fifth of the season and fourth overall at Bristol.
Edwards has won five times in his career on concrete race tracks, including from the pole at Bristol in April, but said it was thanks to his JGR teammates that he won Friday’s pole.
“I was surprised by that lap. We didn’t make a mock run … that tells you how great of teammates we have,” Edwards said. “They helped us a lot. I am proud of my guys, it was fast.”
“We’ll start where we started earlier this year and see if we can’t get the same result. Hopefully we can put Stanley in victory lane. It’s going to be a heck of a race. Who knows what’s going to happen! Stay tuned!”
Hamlin broke his own Bristol track record in the first round of qualifying, setting a lap of 14.573 seconds (131.668 mph), and led round two as well but came up just short when it mattered most.
A time of 14.625 seconds (131.200 mph) ultimately placed Hamlin second on the grid for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race (8 p.m. ET, USA Network).
“We lost the balance the last couple of rounds, for sure,” Hamlin admitted. “Overall, though, I’m still pretty happy with our FedEx Express Camry. We’ve had really good speed, so I’m pretty optimistic for the race. I just can’t believe we’ve qualified as well as we have all year and not gotten a pole yet. It’s been unbelievable, but it’s still a great effort by our entire team and we’re happy with that.”
Practice leader and defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch was third to give JGR a sweep of the qualifying podium, followed by Ryan Blaney, who was both the fastest Ford and the fastest rookie in the No. 21 Virginia Tech/Motorcraft Fusion for the Wood Brothers.
Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five, followed by Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Chris Buescher among the cars who advanced through both cutoffs to the five-minute pole round.
Buescher’s effort was the first time Front Row Motorsports has made the final round this season, as well as the first pole round appearance of his Cup career.
Austin Dillon was the first man to miss transferring to the final round and will start 13th in his No. 3 Dow Chemical Chevrolet, coming up .006 of a second short of Buescher at the end of round two.
Other notables starting behind the top dozen include Jimmie Johnson (16th), Kyle Larson (23rd) and Kevin Harvick (24th)
With 16:13 remaining in round one, Greg Biffle spun off the exit of turn two and slid halfway down the backstretch in his No. 16 Ford. He barely brushed the outside wall and will start 34th.