A familiar car returned to its old sweet Alabama home Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
Travis Kvapil earned the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of his career when he turned in a fast lap of 187.364 mph during Food Land/Food Giant qualifying in preparation for Sunday’s running of the AMP Energy 500.
What made the moment special is the fact that Kvapil is driving the No. 28 Ford owned by Yates Racing. That is the same No. 28 that forever earned a place in the heart of Alabama race fans when it was driven in the early 1990s by the late Davey Allison, a native of nearby Hueytown.
Ernie Irvan later took over as the driver of the No. 28 and placed it on the pole at Talladega three times. But before Kvapil’s run on Saturday, the car had not been in the pole position at Talladega since 1997.
“I remember watching the 28 with Davey running up front and leading laps,” Kvapil said. “This is a place that’s really special to the Yates family. My crew chief, Todd Parrott, loves coming here. Having the 28 with the Alabama Gang and that whole notoriety that comes with the 28, it’s awful special. There are a lot of 28 fans in the Talladega area, so it’s pretty cool that we can come here and get my first pole and give those 28 fans something to cheer about.”
Kvapil also gave his team something to cheer about in a season that has had its share of disappointments.
“I’m so excited for my team, with all we’ve been through this year,” Kvapil said. “This is a great day for us. We’re just really excited. My team has worked really hard, and it’s nice to go out and have a little bit of success.
“So it’s huge for our team. Qualifying here doesn’t really mean a whole lot as far as your chances to win the race after 500 miles. But it’s a huge morale booster for Yates racing.”
Casey Mears qualified second with a speed of 187.295. While Mears plans to compete in Sunday’s race, Brad Keselowski is prepared to be a replacement driver because Mears is awaiting the birth of his first child.
“I’m so excited that it’s getting very close,” Mears said. “It doesn’t look like (Keselowski will be needed), but at this point you never know. We just want to be ready. That’s a very, very important time in my life. The last thing I want to do is miss the birth of my child. That’s definitely No. 1 on my list.”
Aric Almirola qualified third with a fast lap of 187.265. He is followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Regan Smith in fourth (187.181), Paul Menard fifth (187.141), Mike Wallace sixth (186.984), Joe Nemechek seventh (186.969), Tony Raines eighth (186.739), Brian Vickers ninth (186.707) and Martin Truex Jr. 10th (186.674).
Dale Earnhardt Inc. placed all four of its drivers – Almirola, Smith, Menard and Truex – in the top 10.
“It speaks a lot about our company,” Amirola said. “Everybody is working hard back at the shop, and our motors are running really good. I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
Among the drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Carl Edwards qualified 12th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 15th, Jeff Burton 17th, Jimmie Johnson 20th, Greg Biffle 22nd, Jeff Gordon 24th, Matt Kenseth 31st, Tony Stewart 34th, Clint Bowyer 35th, Denny Hamlin 36th, Kyle Busch 37th and Kevin Harvick 39th.
Sam Hornish Jr., and Patrick Carpentier were the only drivers who attempted to qualify who failed to make the 43-car field.
The AMP Energy 500 is scheduled to start at approximately 1 p.m. CDT Sunday and will be televised live by ABC. Driver introductions are set to begin at 12:30 p.m.
Race fans wishing to attend the AMP Energy 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race tomorrow are urged to get tickets now, as there is a limited amount left for purchase. To purchase tickets, call 1-877- Go2-DEGA, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com, or visit one of our ticket booths on site - - including the main Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office located on Speedway Boulevard at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.