Rain-shortened qualifying session puts some unusual names up front
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida - The good news at Daytona International Speedway: The NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying was shortened by rain, just like the Nationwide series qualifying was earlier, but at least the Sprint Cup drivers didn’t smash up a bunch of cars finding out that the track was wet.
When the rain started falling at Daytona during the first Cup qualifying session, some unlikely names were at the top of the leader board, and with qualifying called, they will start right there Saturday night: David Gilliland's number 36 Love's Ford is on the pole, joined on the front row by Reed Sorensen in the number 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet.
Landon Cassill in the number 40 Newtown Chevrolet is third, and Bobby Labonte in the number 33 Thunder Coal Chevrolet is fourth.
Gilliland will be in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona due to his pole. "Our strong point is definitely speedway racing, and this race was circled on the calendar early on," he said. "Restrictor plate tracks are a great equalizer, both my car and my teammate David Ragan have cars that can win tomorrrow night."
Ragan qualified eighth. "I feel like we have as good a chance as anybody to win tomorrow night," Gilliland said. "This is special for our car owner, Bob Jenkins, who pours his heart and soul into this car."
Jimmie Johnson starts fifth, with Matt Kenseth in sixth, Dale Earnhadt, Jr. was seventh.
It was, in a word, crazy out there. “I almost hit the guy in front of me six or seven times,” Sorensen said, as cars slowed and accelerated as they waited on packs to come by.
Only one car goes home: Joe Nemechek in the number 29 ToyotaCare Toyota.
Gilliland's fast lap was 199.322 mph. It's his third pole in 276 Cup races, and his second pole at Daytona. The Front Row Motorsports driver is 36. Cole Whitt, in 17th, was the highest-qualifying rookie.
At this writing -- 6:30 p.m. -- track drying continues for the Nationwide race in less than one hour.