Is this the weekend when he does it for the first time at Hendrick Motorsports? To the vocal delight of his many fans here, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. His lap of 28.286 ...
Is this the weekend when he does it for the first time at Hendrick Motorsports?
To the vocal delight of his many fans here, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. His lap of 28.286 seconds at 190.907 mph in the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet gave him his first pole since Pocono in August 2007, and his eighth in 298 career NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
After four top-10 starts in 2008 in the Hendrick stable, can he again vault into the winner's circle on Sunday at the same track where he won his first Busch and Cup races?
Dale Jr. gives a great deal of credit for his successes this season to the professionalism and supportive atmosphere he's finding at his new driving gig, and "how much better a situation I'm in, how much happier I am personally...it's just overwhelming for me..I've never had these kinds of [performance] statistics, and I'm enjoying that and I'm humbled by it." said Earnhardt.
"[The Hendrick Organization] continues to do things that impress me..I've gotten put with a great team - new tools, new ideas - I appreciate the testing they do and the lengths they'll go to [in analyzing data] to understand things and see the advantages and disadvantages for the car of what they've learned."
During practice, Earnhardt ran 186.877 mph for 28.896 minutes; 0.243 behind practice leader David Reutimann's No. 44 UPS Toyota.
The second car in the Samsung 500 front row is the No. 99 Aflac Ford driven by the back-flipping Carl Edwards, winner at Fontana and Las Vegas. He had the second-fastest practice (28.733 at 187.937 mph) and then a strong qualifying run, but when Earnhardt hit a cooler track later in the qualifying day, he beat Edwards' 28.498 at 189.487 mph.
"I didn't leave anything out there. That was a good lap," said Edwards. "To run a 28.49, for me, was really good, considering the track was essentially the same temperature [in practice,] the sun was still high in the sky. So, if I did it again I don't think I could go any faster. I really wanted that [pole winner's] shotgun. That was a little painful to see Dale go that fast."
Row 2 will be Atlanta winner Kyle Busch's No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota and Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman's No. 12 alltel/Samsung Dodge. "We knew that if we could get a top-10 qualifying start or somewhere near the front, we would be good for the race," said Busch. "This place is going to be pretty aero-sensitive here on Sunday, so we have to keep it up front."
Newman overcame some nerves as one of the first cars back out on the track after a horrific crash by Michael McDowell's No. 00 Toyota from the Waltrip Racing team (coming in on owner points.)
McDowell hit the wall hard, caught fire and flipped eight times before coming to a stop, but he climbed out unhurt (in another demonstration of the utility of COT safety improvements, SAFER barriers and HANS devices.)
"I came off Turn Four, and something just didn't feel right," said McDowell. "I told the guys [on his crew] 'Man, this thing is really tight and I'm going to run another lap.' Then I got down in there and it started to pull right on me. I tried to gather it up and as soon as I turned back to the right, the front tires hooked up and started rolling down from there. I didn't lose consciousness - I felt every roll down the hill. For me to walk away from a wreck like that is unbelievable."
Reutimann (at 6th) was the fastest of the drivers required to make the field on time (28.612 at 188.732 mph,) and Sam Hornish, Jr. (at 17th) was the fastest qualifying rookie in his No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge (28.763 at 187.741 mph.)
Joe Nemechek's No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet was the last car in the field, with a 29.159 at 185.192 mph. Three drivers did not qualify: No. 40 Dario Franchitti, No. 45 Chad McCumbee and No. 08 Burney Lamar.
The Samsung 500 green flag will wave on Sunday, April 6, at 1:00 p.m. (CST)