BUSCH: Earnhardt Jr nips Raines for Bristol pole

Dale Earnhardt Jr climbed back into a NASCAR Busch series car at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time since 1999 and he drove straight to the top to take the pole away from Tony Raines by a wink: 0.004-seconds! "This is great," commented ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr climbed back into a NASCAR Busch series car at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time since 1999 and he drove straight to the top to take the pole away from Tony Raines by a wink: 0.004-seconds!

"This is great," commented Earnhardt Jr. "I'm glad we have the opportunity to run with Menards here. Originally, we (DEI) had only planned to do three Busch races this year because life at the track is busy enough with all there is to do running the Cup series."

Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated added Menard Racing to their stable this summer; Paul Menard was one of the struggling independent teams when it merged with DEI. Earnhardt Jr first jumped into the second Menard Chevrolet at The Glen when rain spoiled his attempt to qualify the car.

"Obviously, there's absolutely nothing we can do about the weather." said a disappointed Earnhardt when Watkins Glen qualifying was squashed. "On the bright side, it gave us a head start on our preparations for this weekend at Bristol. I had a really good run there last spring, and I'm really looking forward to running with Dale, Jr., on our side. Under the lights at Bristol is always a special event. I can't wait to get there and get to work."

The 'I love to race' Earnhardt indeed came back from wet weather at The Glen to the dry half-mile oval to rain on Raines' parade in Thursday qualifying. Earnhardt turned a lap at 15.160-seconds for a speed of 126.570 miles per hour; whereas, Raines best was 15.164-seconds (126.536 mph) in his Chevy.

The last two times Earnhardt Jr ran a Busch race in Bristol, he finished second. Friday under the lights, he hopes to drive the #81 Menards/'Save Big Money' Chevrolet into victory circle.

"when we got together with the Menards folks to run Paul's car, it seemed like a great ide to run this race with them," explained Earnhardt on his decision to run Bristol. "This place is so fast and so furious, I think it's going to be a great show. We're really happy with the progress we're making with the #11 (Paul Menard) car. He had a good run today, too. That team keeps inching ahead on getting Paul more comfortable in the car and going quicker. They're going to do great things."

DEI/Menard team driver, Paul Menard slotted 15th on the grid. DEI's Chance 2 Motorsports driver and series points leader Matin Truex, Jr. will take the green flag from the 12th spot.

Chevrolet drivers Kenny Wallace, Kevin Harvick and David Green rounded out the top five in a highly competitive, tightly bunched Busch field to take the green flag Friday night at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Tony Raines , David Green , Paul Menard