All-night rain forced the cancellation of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifications at the Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday. The advance weather forecast called for the rain, and it happened as projected. As a result, the starting field for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 has been set based on practice speeds during Friday’s opening round of practice.
By registering the fastest practice lap of 199.675 miles per hour, Carl Edwards will be on the pole in the Fastenal Ford.
“Qualifying (Friday’s practice) was pretty exciting for all the teams,” Edwards said. “We looked at the forecast, and we were all concerned there would not be single-car qualifying. As a result, it was alike a heat race out there, as everyone was doing everything they could to lag back and partner up to get the fastest lap they could. And we got the fastest lap with about one minute to go. Our whole mission was to get the fastest lap, and I am very proud of our team.”
Discussing the race, Edwards noted, “From that practice, I learned that these (Gen-6) cars seemed to do a good job of pulling up and passing other cars. Our car was really fast, and it looks like it will be a pretty crazy race. There might be a time where everyone falls in line if we wreck early and everyone gets spooked into taking it easier. But I think tomorrow could be any kind of race, but I can guaranty the final couple of laps will be insane.”
Starting alongside Edwards will be Martin Truex Jr. in the NAPA Auto parts Toyota. His speed was a tick of the clock slower at 199.650 mph.
Said Truex, “We had a great qualifying lap and the car was fast. We had a good plan, and the car felt great. We thought car would feel same as Daytona but it didn’t. We don’t know what to expect tomorrow. Where you start here doesn’t really matter.”
Regarding the race, he added, “We are starting second but could be 25th coming around on the first lap -- that’s just plate racing. In the race, guys will be coming and going, and you just have to be in the right position at the right time.”
Row two starters will be Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano, both in Fords.
Ryan Newman (Chevrolet) and Matt Kenseth (Toyota) have earned the row three slots.
Comeback driver Denny Hamlin, Sprint Cup point leader Jimmie Johnson, six-time Talladega winner Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne will be the fourth and fifth row starters, respectively.
Hamlin is expected to turn over the wheel to Brian Vickers early in the 188-lap event. The pair of drivers shared the Toyota for 29 laps of practice with Hamlin running 16.
According to Hamlin, he felt no pain after exiting the car but realizes the importance of taking it easy. “Knowing basically what we were going to do this weekend was going to be the equivalent of a quarterback hiking the ball and taking a knee,” Hamlin said during a press conference on Friday. “We are going to very much minimize our risks this weekend, which gives us one more week to heal.”
Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned the 11th and 12th starting spots.
Daytona 500 pole winner Danica Patrick timed 23rd fastest, and she starts one spot ahead of Richmond winner Kevin Harvick, and her team’s co-owner Tony Stewart.
In 2012, Keselowski and Kenseth were the victors of the two Talladega races.
Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 will be telecast by FOX at Noon ET.