Qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday proved to as easy as one-two-three for Roush Fenway Racing.
Roush Fenway drivers took the top three positions during qualifying for Saturday’s running of the Mountain Dew 250 Fueled by Winn-Dixie NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. It is the first time in the 14-year history of the NCTS that a single team has captured the first three spots in qualifying.
Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford, will be on the pole for Saturday’s race after posting a fast-lap qualifying speed of 181.753 mph. He will be joined on the front row by John Wes Townley, driver of the No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford, who qualified at 181.563. They are followed by fellow teammate Colin Braun, who turned in a lap of 181.093 in the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford.
“Roush Fenway has a very strong track record on the superspeedways with their truck program,” Darnell said. “Mark Martin won both races at Talladega and Daytona in ’06. We’re always up front with these things, and we’re looking to be there when we end the day (Saturday).”
The 18-year-old Townley nearly became the youngest pole winner in NCTS history before being nipped by Darnell by less than two-tenths of a second.
“I was really hoping we could hang on there, but we didn’t quite have it,” Townley said. “But we’re all three up there, so hopefully we can get in a draft and we’ll be set for the race.”
When the race begins at 3 p.m. CDT Saturday, the Roush Fenway trio will be followed in the starting lineup by Jon Wood in fourth (who qualified with a speed of 179.289), Todd Bodine fifth (178.904), Joey Logano sixth (178.810), Ron Hornaday Jr. seventh (178.650), Dennis Setzer eighth (178.414), Mike Skinner ninth (178.258) and Mike Wallace 10th (178.191).
Bodine, driver of the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota, is the defending champion of this race, but he said it will be difficult for him or any of the other drivers in the 33-car field to hang with the Roush Fenway Fords.
“The game plan is to try to run with the Fords. We have a pretty big horsepower deficit,” Bodine said. “The Lumber Liquidators Tundra is really driving good. It’s fantastic. But it’s going to be hard to beat the Fords, though, that’s for sure.”
Of course, a good qualifying run does not automatically result in success on race day. Roush Fenway discovered that in the NCTS race at Daytona International Speedway earlier this year, when all three cars qualified in the top 10 but none finished in the top 20.
“At Daytona we were all pretty strong, so it was disappointing the way the race turned out,” Braun said. “But I think we just proved that we can rebuild our stuff, bring it back and have it be even stronger than it was before.
“To see all three Roush-Fenway cars in the top three is pretty impressive. It really just shows the hard work the guys have been doing at the shop. They’ve been working their butts off.”
Alabama native Rick Crawford will start 11th in Saturday’s race. Kyle Busch qualified 13th, Scott Speed 16th and Johnny Benson – who leads the NCTS standings by a single point over Hornaday – will start 17th.
The 94-lap race is schedule to begin at 3 p.m. CDT and will be televised live on SPEED.
Children age 11 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a ticketed adult in the general admission grandstands area for the Food Land/Food Giant NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying and the Mountain Dew 250 Fueled by Winn-Dixie Craftsman Truck Series race. Tickets are still available for the AMP Energy 500 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway which includes all the action of the Mountain Dew 250 Fueled by Winn-Dixie Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday and the AMP Energy 500 NASCAR Sprint 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 in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.