As the final Xfinity Series hauler was departing the track, Austin Dillon kept the party going for Richard Childress Racing. Fresh off Tyler Reddick‘s emphatic victory in RCR’s No. 2 car in the Xfinity race, Dillon bested defending Talladega race winner Aric Almirola to win the GEICO 500 pole, his second pole of 2019 and the fifth of his Cup career. Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and RCR rookie Daniel Hemric rounded out the top five. Dillon’s pole-winning run also came on his 29th birthday.
Said Almirola immediately after his effort, which came up just short of the pole, “I don’t know where I would have changed anything.”
After two eventful practice sessions on Friday as the Cup drivers wrestled with the extra horsepower and taller spoilers that the 2019 aero package has provided, Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session went off without incident, though it was evident on pit road exit that teams were taking full advantage of the extra horsepower the cars have with this new package. The general tenor coming out the bullpen as the drivers completed their qualifying runs indicated that the new package, coupled with the addition of “wickers” to the rear spoilers has led to the Cup cars punching far larger holes in the air, resulting in higher overall and closing speeds.
Still, despite the package, there were few qualifying surprises in this session, with RCR demonstrating more of the qualifying speed they’ve shown throughout 2019, and Ford’s Mustangs dominating the speed charts (Fords took seven of the top 12 positions in qualifying). Of note, no Toyotas qualified in the top 12 for Sunday’s race.
Xfinity winner Reddick qualified the No. 62 Cup car for Brendan Gaughan as planned, with Gaughan attending to family obligations (Reddick posted the 29th quickest time of the session). Gaughan will return to Talladega to start the Cup race tomorrow. All 40 cars entered took time in Saturday’s qualifying session.