During final practice on Thursday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. set the bar in regard to single car speeds. During Friday’s qualifying session the No. 88 Chevrolet backed it up by winning his third career pole at the famed track.
Earnhardt’s lap of 47.127 seconds (190.973 mph) was .044 seconds quicker than Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott (190.795 mph), who picked up his third front row start in four career starts at Daytona.
In a session that was dominated by Chevrolet and Ford, Earnhardt knew that Elliott was going to be the one to beat.
“I have to give HMS a lot of credit,” Earnhardt said following his qualifying session. “For me, personally, it’s been the [No.] 24 bunch. We’ve been pushing each other over the past couple of years at Daytona and Talladega, and it’s been a healthy competition. That’s why we win poles and qualify well at some of these race tracks, it’s a healthy competition within the company.”
The last time Earnhardt started from the pole at Daytona was in this event, two years ago. That night, he went on to lead a race-high 96 laps, picking up his fourth victory at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Defending race winner, Brad Keselowski, turned the third quickest average speed at 190.287 mph, and was the fastest of the Blue Ovals. Kasey Kahne was the third driver from the Hendrick Motorsports team to qualify in the top five (190.050 mph), while Sonoma winner Kevin Harvick rounds out the top five (190.046 mph).
For Patrick, it’s the first time since mid-2014 that the No. 10 car made it to the final round of qualifying in back-to-back weeks. In her career, she has an average starting position of 19.4 at Daytona.
“I think that once we get to this point of the season, after going to a couple of superspeedways, especially having the time time that we do in Daytona, everybody feels that we’ve got what we’ve got,” Patrick said after her qualifying run. “We didn’t make a mock run or anything. We did two single-car runs, and we didn’t get really get into traffic much. It’s a good car, and Stewart-Haas [Racing] always builds great cars, especially now that we have more in-house things.”
Past Daytona winner Matt Kenseth led the Toyota camp, qualifying 13th. Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch turned the 15th fastest lap, while his younger brother, Kyle Busch, will start from 16th, after having the fastest time in opening practice on Thursday.
The green flag to the Coke Zero 400 is scheduled to wave at 7:50 p.m. ET Saturday evening. Keselowski led 115 out of 160 laps in last years event.
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