TALLADEGA, Ala. - There will be a familiar car but a brand new face on the pole for Saturday's running of the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Brad Coleman, a 19-year-old part-time Busch Series driver, will make his Talladega Superspeedway debut from the pole position after turning in a fast lap of 184.299 mph during qualifying on Friday. It is the first Busch Series pole of his young career.
This is not, however, the first time the No. 18 car owned by Joe Gibbs Racing has been on the pole at a restrictor-plate race. In fact, this is the fifth consecutive Busch Series plate race in which a driver has piloted the No. 18 car to the pole position.
Among the drivers to place the No. 18 car on the pole were J.J. Yeley, who started at the front in the Aaron's 312 last year, and Aric Almirola, who was on the pole for this year's season-opening Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
"This team knows what they're doing," Coleman said. "This is a great car. It sucked up well in the draft.
"Without my team, I wouldn't be able to do this. Joe Gibbs Racing is such a great organization. They just do such a great job back at the shop and at the track."
Dave Blaney will start second Saturday after posting a top speed of 184.062 mph. Jason Leffler qualified third (183.935) followed by Casey Mears (183.691) in fourth and Ward Burton (183.434) fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 are Clint Bowyer in sixth (183.332), David Ragan seventh (183.157), Danny O'Quinn eighth (183.154), Busch Series points leader Carl Edwards ninth (183.073) and Jamie McMurray 10th (183.010).
Winning the pole capped what has been an emotional week for Coleman. Earlier in the week, his grandfather passed away.
"It's been really tough. It's been tough on my whole family," Coleman said. "Just to get this pole, I have to dedicate it to him. I definitely had a guardian angel out there with me today, and he was with me helping push that car from behind."
Coleman will need some of his fellow drivers to help push him Saturday, since drafting partners are crucial in restrictor-plate races. The question is, will the veterans be willing to work with a plate novice?
"A rookie at a plate race, he's probably not going to have too many people who want to help him, but that's what you go through the first time or two at a plate race," Blaney said. "But he has a good team and a good car. I'm sure he'll be fine."
Coleman said since he can't control what the other drivers do, he'll simply drive his own race.
"I hope they do work with me, but being a rookie on the pole, I don't know if the whole field is going to go training by me, or if the bottom line is going to get going," Coleman said. "I'm just going to stick on that bottom and see what happens. In practice, surprisingly a lot of people worked with me, and I hope that carries over to the race."
Children age 11 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a ticketed adult in the general admission grandstands area for The Birmingham News Qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race. Tickets are still available to the Aaron's Dream Weekend at Talladega Superspeedway which includes all the action of the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday and the Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday. Tickets may be ordered by calling 1-877- Go2-DEGA, by logging onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com, and are also available for purchase on-site at the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office located on Speedway Boulevard at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.