Much ado was made of Ford during morning practice sessions at the Texas Motor Speedway, with Roush Fenway Racing drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth timing in first, second and fourth on the speed charts. But when push came to shove during qualifying, it was another Ford (and a soon to be ex-Ford driver) at that who brought home the pole.
That was none other than Elliott Sadler, who followed up a press conference only an hour earlier announcing that he would be racing in the Nationwide Series full-time for Kevin Harvick Incorporated in 2011 with a scorching pole run that saw Sadler top second-place Biffle by two-and-a-half tenths of a second and come within a tenth of breaking the track record in his No. 19, the first Cup pole Sadler has sat on since Talladega way back in the spring of 2006. Biffle, Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Ragan rounded out the top five.
“If they can run faster than that, they can have it” quipped Sadler immediately after his time trial run. “We have a lot of folks here from Stanley this weekend, so that was a good start” to what Sadler made reference to during his KHI press conference as “the new chapter of our lives.”
Also notable on what was a tremendous day for Ford (five of the top-10 starting positions) was the confidence being exuded by the Roush Fenway Racing Chase contenders, who seem to have found their long lost stride at a track they dominated as early as two years ago.
Said Edwards of his lap, “it feels real, real fast. I was hooping and hollering after I crossed the stripes because I thought it was the pole. I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I had run any faster than that.”
But Biffle’s remarks were more telling: “We learned a little bit… [but] what I care about right now is that we are in great shape for Sunday.”
Of the three Chase leaders, Jimmie Johnson qualified 17th after running top 10 in practice. Denny Hamlin qualified a distant 30th, but won the spring event earlier this year after starting 29th. The biggest question mark is that of third-place Kevin Harvick, who was mired outside the top 25 in practice before timing in 26th. Said Harvick earlier in the morning though, “we worry more about the race.”
JJ Yeley, Scott Riggs, Michael McDowell, Jeff Green, Josh Wise and Brian Keselowski all failed to qualify. Brad Keselowski will have to go to a backup car after a spin through the infield grass in practice did massive damage to the front end of his Dodge. Andy Lally also spun in practice but avoided contact with the wall.