By Nancy Knapp Schilke
Ford Racing left Daytona on a high note after taking a 1-2-3 finish at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener. This weekend they are racing in Phoenix, Arizona and Carl Edwards laid down the fastest lap time to score the pole for Sunday's 7th Annual SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500.
On taking the pole, Edwards said, "That's a big deal. We've had a lot of support from Subway. It's been a lot of fun representing them and to be on the pole is huge. This new qualifying format is a little stressful. I had to watch Kyle go, and I know how fast he was, and then Kurt was screaming fast yesterday, so he had me stressed out a little bit. It's fortunate we were able to sit on the pole. I love this race track."
On a day that was a bit cooler than usual with on and off clouds and a slight breeze, Edwards took his Roush Fenway Ford to a speed of 137.279 miles per hour on the Phoenix International Raceway 1 mile oval at a time of 26.224 seconds.
"It's fortunate we were able to sit on the pole. I love this race track. I know all the drivers love this race track. It's really fun to drive on and starting up front is, hopefully, gonna make the race a lot simpler," said Edwards.
Last year in November Edwards landed the pole at PIR and today he broke his own record. He was not alone in setting faster times today as the top 15 on the starting grid all were under the old mark of 136.389 mph.
Due to the new rule of declaring which of the three top series under the NASCAR umbrella a team can earn points, Trevor Bayne -- winner of the Daytona 500 -- had zero points since he and the Wood Brothers elected the Nationwide series. Therefore, Edwards will take the green flag start as the title leader tomorrow with the best pitbox, which proved to be a benefit last year.
"Track position is huge here, especially on the short run," explained Edwards on how vital the pitbox selection is. "I think we'll have that first pit stall. I'm assuming that's what Bob will pick and that really helped us a lot in the fall to have a good pit stall because I would lose a couple spots, and Kurt (Busch) and I actually raced a ton, and he would take off and leave us, but we had the advantage of the pit stall and sometimes we'd come back out front and he'd pass me again. But having that pit stall means a lot and it will hopefully help us throughout the whole race."
Landing on the front row in his Penske Racing Dodge was Kurt Busch with a time of 26.256 (137.111 mph), 0.032 seconds slower than the pole winner. "We're happy with our run. Our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge was pretty stout. I just gave up a few thousandths of a second. Carl (Edwards) ran a great lap. This is a track position race and to start up front is a nice hurdle to get over," he said.
Third went to Kasey Kahne with a 26.259 (137.096 mph). The now Toyota driver with Red Bull Racing just missed the front row by three-thousandths of a second.
"We had a really good lap there. I was real happy with it," said Kahne. "I felt like I should have gone a little bit quicker, but still we ran a .25 and are starting top-three. That'll be a great spot for tomorrow. We felt like our Red Bull Toyota was fast yesterday in practice in race practice so I feel like in tomorrow's race we'll have a good shot at staying, holding our position and racing with those guys. It's going to be tough because everybody is pretty good. It'll be tough, but Carl (Edwards) had a really good lap there and just barely pulled it off."
Pole winner for the Nationwide race tonight and winner of last night's Truck race ended fourth in the Cup series qualifying. Kyle Busch slots on the second row with his best lap of 26.281 (136.981 mph) in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
"We've been good here and just came up a little bit short there," said Busch. "I think it was more driver than it was car. The car was pretty good. It felt really good like yesterday. I just didn't quite have enough there. It's real, real tight up front. The least little slip means a lot."
On the third row in fifth is Regan Smith for the Furniture Row Racing team with a 26.283 in his Chevrolet. Next to Smith will be JGR's Joey Logano with a 26.288 seconds on his best lap, giving Toyota three in the top six for the race start.
Brian Keselowski was the driver caught out of the 44 who attempted to fill the 43 slots.
Weather could play a factor with expected rain tonight and tomorrow in the Phoenix area. The green flag is expected at 1:00pm (MST).