Aaron’s Dream Weekend Friday Recap at Talladega Superspeedway
Pastrana takes NNS Pole: Travis Pastrana has executed numerous motorcycle backflips and other stunts. He has driven a car off a pier onto a floating barge. Once, he even jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. But the extreme sports superstar will experience one of the most exciting moments of his thrill-seeking life on Saturday when he leads a pack of 43 cars into Turn 1 at Talladega Superspeedway for the start of the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Pastrana earned that honor on Friday when he captured the Coors Light pole position for the Aaron’s 312 by turning in a fast lap of 176.500 mph during Polk’s Meats qualifying. It is the first pole of Pastrana’s 17-race Nationwide Series career, and it comes in his first start at Talladega Superspeedway. It also is the first career Nationwide Series pole for Pastrana’s car owner, Roush Fenway Racing, at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Pastrana said with a wide smile. “Bringing the guys to the line at the green flag at Talladega is awesome. I’m definitely excited. It’s a huge accomplishment to be able to just start here at Talladega. To lead them to the green, I’m pretty excited about that as an accomplishment. As far as being something to check off the list, this is really, really high on that list.”
Austin Dillon will start beside Pastrana on the front row after posting a qualifying lap of 176.162 mph. Trevor Bayne – the 2011 Daytona 500 winner – qualified third with a speed of 176.071, followed by Danica Patrick in fourth (175.877) and Justin Allgaier fifth (175.868).
Nationwide Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. will start sixth (175.771), Elliott Sadler seventh (175.732), Brian Scott eighth (175.587), 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch ninth (175.520) and Joey Coulter 10th (175.330).
“It’s going to be a fun weekend. It’s going to be crazy,” Coulter said. “Watching these races from the past couple years, there’s been a pretty good mix of pack racing and tandem racing. So it should be real exciting.”
Driver introduction for the Aaron’s 312 will begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The 117-lap race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
Sprint Cup practice speeds near 200 mph: Carl Edwards led the way during a blistering fast NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session Friday in preparation for Sunday’s running of the Aaron’s 499. Edwards’ fastest lap speed during the first practice session of the afternoon was 199.675 mph.
A total of eight drivers topped 199 mph and 17 drivers were faster than 198 mph, a group that included Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson, defending Aaron’s 499 champion Brad Keselowski and five-time Talladega Superspeedway winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Denny Hamlin, who has missed the past four races with a back injury, returned to the track for the first time since March 24 and completed 16 practice laps. He is expected to start Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 but will likely be replaced at some point during the race by Brian Vickers.
“Last night it was tough to sleep knowing that I was going to get back in the car for the first time,” Hamlin said. “This is an exciting time. If it wasn’t for my crew chief (Darian Grubb), I would have stayed out there until I ran out of gas. I’m excited about this weekend and finally getting back going again.”
Polk’s Meats qualifying for the Aaron’s 499 will begin at 11:10 a.m. Saturday.
Kimmel nears ARCA career record with Talladega win: Frank Kimmel, who turned 51 on Tuesday, held off a host of younger drivers to win the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 250 Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. It was the 77th career ARCA Racing Series victory for Kimmel, only two shy of the all-time record of 79 held by Iggy Katona.
“This is really big,” Kimmel said. “You’re told that you can’t win again and that you’re too old and all that. And then you come out and do it. It’s a pretty special day.”
Kimmel passed Josh Williams for the lead on lap 43 and maintained the top spot until the race was called for rain on lap 73 of the scheduled 94-lap race.
“The car really drove well. I could go anywhere I wanted,” Kimmel said. “Once I got ahead it really ran well. I got on the bottom and said, ‘OK, if they’re going to pass me, they’re going to have to do it on the outside.’ ”
ARCA rookie Mason Mingus finished second followed by Caleb Armstrong in third, Mark Thompson fourth, Terry Jones fifth and Williams sixth.