When the green flag is dropped for the 2011 Daytona 500 next Sunday, it will be an all Hendrick Motorsports front row.
[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole with a speed of 186.089 mph (48.364 seconds) for the 10th pole of his Sprint Cup Series career.
“We’re fired up,” Earnhardt said. “We had a great car today. I didn’t have a whole lot to do with it; I just held on. They build awesome cars which allows us to do it.
“You can win the race with any car. It just takes a lot of pressure off me in the Duel to qualify well and we can just go out there and take the hardware home.”
The 2004 Daytona 500 winner will be going for his second Daytona 500 victory in his 400th career start. The last time Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500, he started on pole after pole sitter Greg Biffle had to drop to the rear of the field.
Starting along side Earnhardt will be three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon, who qualified with a speed of 185.996mph (48.396 seconds).
“That is awesome,” Gordon said. “I’m really excited about everything that’s been going put out about Daytona. This is a special race – means a lot to Rick, means a lot to all the Hendrick Motorsports employees.”
Rounding out the top five was Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer. Jeff Burton qualified sixth, followed by Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart.
Of the go-or-go homers, Bill Elliott, Travis Kravil and Joe Nemechek are all now locked in based upon speed with Terry Labonte locked in with the champion’s provisonal. The rest of the drivers who will start the Daytona 500 and the starting positions third through 43rd will be determined on Thursday with the Gatorade Duels on SPEED.
The only dramatic moment of qualifying came when Denny Hamlin pulled off pit road and instead of heading on the banking, he headed towards the infield grass.
“It locked and came to the left,” Hamlin said. “Its a different steering column then I’m comfortable and thats just about it.”
The car got some front valiance damage, yet the team doesn’t look to be switching to a back-up car. Hamlin ran his two laps after his experience, pulling the 44th quickest speed, but was already starting at the back of his Gatorade Duel due to an engine change during yesterday’s practice.
1.Dale Earnhardt Jr. (locked into No. 1 spot)
2.Jeff Gordon (locked into No. 2 spot)
12.Juan Pablo Montoya
17.Bill Elliott* (locked in based on speed)
20.Travis Kvapil* (locked in based on speed)
21.Joe Nemechek* (locked in based on speed)
33.Martin Truex Jr.
42.Terry Labonte* (locked in based on past champion’s provisional)
43.Robert Richardson Jr.
* – Required to qualify on time
To see more articles by Ashley McCubbin and live updates from the weekend, check out http://newsfromthepits.blogspot.com/