Rumours are already abound that NASCAR 'helped' Richard Childress Racing and Austin Dillon get on pole for publicity reasons.
Daytona Beach, Fla. – Rookie Austin Dillon raced to the Daytona 500 pole position in qualifying Sunday at the Daytona International Speedway. In earning his first Coors Light Pole Award, the 23-year old driver zipped around the 2.5-mile oval at a speed of 196.019 miles per hour. The pole winner was driving the No. 3 DOW Chevrolet fielded by Richard Childress Racing with the team owned by his grandfather, Richard Childress. The Daytona 500 marks the return of the No. 3 to Sprint Cup racing for the first time since the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001.
This is the fourth time the No. 3 car has sat on the Daytona pole. Buddy Baker did the honors in 1969, Ricky Rudd in 1983, Earnhardt in 1996 and now Dillon. Nine times the pole winner has gone on to win the Daytona 500.
“The pole means a lot to me,” Dillon said. “For my family, it is a big lift off our shoulders to start the year off like this, but it is a long year and you have to stay grounded and focused. For sure, it is huge to put the No. 3 on the pole. Hopefully, we can keep this legendary number running well. I am so happy for all these (team) guys; this means a lot to them. And I am automatically in the Sprint Unlimited next year. Regarding his pole-winning lap, he commented, “It was a good clean lap and everything went as planned. The guys put together a rock-solid race car, and I’m just the one behind the wheel holding on to it. I didn’t make a mistake, which is good. This place is one of the easiest places to qualify, as you just have to hold the wheel and stay focused. Once I got to fourth gear, I was relaxed; I just wanted to keep it simple and not make any mistakes.”
Proud grandfather Childress was beaming all over as he congratulated his grandson. “I couldn’t be more proud of Austin and all the guys that worked so hard this winter,” Childress stated. “We wanted to put on a good show with the No. 3, and it is really special to have my grandson in the car.”
Martin Truex Jr. qualified second fastest at 195.852 mph. He drives the Furniture Row Chevrolet.
“The front row is what we are here for, and it means a ton to me,” Truex stated. “What a great job this team has done. I think we have got about seven miles on this car. We had one run yesterday, and no (pre-season) testing down here. It shows what great race cars these guys build. It is just an amazing job by everybody on the team, and I am just the lucky guy to get to hold the wheel.”
Truex started from the pole in 2009.
The engines in the two front-row cars come from ECR.
While Dillon and Truex are locked into starting positions for the Daytona 500, the other 41 positions are up for grabs with the line-up being determined by a combination of results from the two Gatorade Duel races, qualifying times and provisional positions. Ford drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards qualified third and fourth fastest followed by RCR’s newest driver Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard. NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 14th fastest.
2013 pole winner Danica Patrick timed 25th and teammate Tony Stewart was 35th while Stewart-Haas Racing’s newcomers Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch were 23rd and 28th, respectively.
Qualification runs were made by 49 cars with ageless Morgan Shepherd bringing up the rear at 189.542 mph.