Dale Jarrett earned his third career pole for the "Great American Race" Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. The last time Jarrett sat on the pole in 2000 he wheeled the No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford to victory in the annual NASCAR Cup...
Dale Jarrett earned his third career pole for the "Great American Race" Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. The last time Jarrett sat on the pole in 2000 he wheeled the No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford to victory in the annual NASCAR Cup series' season opener.
Threes a lucky number for Jarrett in Daytona - he has also won the Daytona 500 three times. The UPS Ford Taurus driver placed down a lap at 188.312 miles per hour to take the first Bud Pole award of the 2005 season and 16th of Jarrett's career.
"This was a great effort by Mike Ford (crew chief) and his team of people," said Jarrett. "It's been an effort and taken a lot of people. Doug Yates and his hundred people at the engine shop who have basically been working day and night.the effort that's been made here and the turn around in this team is really because of the efforts of Mike Ford and Eddie D'Hondt (General Manager at RYR) and their work over the last 18 months.
"They have made this fun again for me."
Jarrett has hardly been a contender the last few years but the team seems to be enjoying resurgence lately. As Jarrett winds down an impressive career in the next few years it is D'Hondt and Ford's intention to allow him to go out on a high note.
"I think we can be considered a car to beat on Sunday," Jarrett said. "What helps is that when you are a fast race car people tend to go with you more. This car drives much better in the draft than the car we had last night (for the Shootout)."
Jimmie Johnson will join Jarrett on the front row. There two positions are the only two locked in for the 500. The rest of the fields starting spots will be determined after the finishing order for the two Twin 150 events.
"I knew that we could run an 80 again we felt really comfortable with the time we ran yesterday," said Johnson. "I had mixed emotions going into it but I went in with an open mind.
"To come out second was a little bit of a surprise we hadn't been concentrating on qualifying.we feel like we have a better car than we did last night (Shootout)."
Johnson has already won one event during Speedweeks: The Budweiser Shootout last night.
"I feel really good about our whole team," said Johnson. "Everything to do with Hendrick Motorsports is rocking."
Four racers were however guaranteed a spot in the 500 based on speed in qualifying and cannot now be eliminated in the Twins. They are Jason Leffler, Boris Said, Mike Skinner and John Andretti. They top 35 in points from last season are also guaranteed a spot in the race regardless of their finish in the qualifying events.
There was lots of mechanical drama beginning with Greg Biffle's car catching fire on pit road just prior to qualifying. The oil heater shorter and caught fire and the car had to be taken back to the garage to access the damage. The team ended up being able to qualify with the same car; they went out 12th and qualified
"I'm not real happy with that," said Biffle. "But those were the cards we were dealt. That's racing I guess."
Biffle's teammate Matt Kenseth also had issues during time trials. He blew an engine on the No. 17 Ford going into turn 3 on the first lap.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was uncharacteristically slow positioning the No. 8 Chevy in 39th spot.
"We didn't run good yesterday," said Earnhardt. "The car just doesn't run good by itself. We're way down on horsepower. Hopefully we will have a good race on Sunday.
"I kinda saw it coming, our tests weren't that good and we just didn't have time to fix it."
Earnhardt's teammates Martin Truex, Jr. and Michael Waltrip also did not fair that well. Truex was 31st and Waltrip 33rd.
"It's good to be here," said Truex. "I've got to thank everyone at Bass Pro Shops and everyone at DEI. These guys worked all winter to put this car together and I'm just trying to get in the race. We'll see what happens today but Thursday will be more important."
Jeff Green also blew an engine and did not make his time trial lap. All the mechanical issues were pretty much not an issue since for the Daytona 500 all this round of qualifying did was set the poles for the Twin's and lock in four drivers on speed.
The field for next Sunday's Daytona 500 will officially be set on Thursday with the running of the Twin 150 qualifying events.