Edwards on Pole for Talladega Superspeedway’s Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup Race
TALLADEGA, AL – Practice might not have made Carl Edwards perfect, but it did make him good enough to claim the pole position for Sunday’s running of the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
A wet morning on Saturday washed out Polk’s Meat qualifying for the Aaron’s 499, so the field was set based upon the fastest laps that drivers posted during the first practice session on Friday. Edwards took 30 practice laps – the fifth-most among all the drivers – and on his final trip around Talladega’s 2.66-mile trioval he hit 199.675 mph. That wound up being the fastest lap speed of the session, edging out the 199.650 mph lap of Martin Truex Jr. As a result, Edwards is on the pole for the first time since last year’s season-opening Daytona 500.
Truex will start second, followed by Marcus Ambrose in third, Joey Logano fourth and Ryan Newman fifth. Matt Kenseth, who won the Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway last October, will start sixth, with Denny Hamlin, points leader Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne rounding out the top 10. Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski will start 11th, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 12th, giving Hendrick Motorsports four cars in the top 12.
According to Edwards, Friday’s practice was more intense than usual because the teams knew there was a chance qualifying might not take place. “It was like a heat race out there,” Edwards said. “Everyone was doing everything they could to get the fastest lap times they could, and it was pretty exciting. We got the fastest lap with about one minute to go. That was our whole mission (Friday) and I’m pretty proud of the fact that we ended up with the fastest time.”
Edwards said the practice also gave an indication of what fans could expect to see during the Aaron’s 499. In addition to speeds approaching 200 mph, the drivers definitely showed a tendency to mix it up a bit on the track.
“We were four-wide in practice once,” Edwards pointed out. “The cars seem to do a really good job of pulling up and actually passing other cars here. Our car was very fast. I don’t know if it’s just that our car is real fast or if everyone is like that, but it looks like it’s going to be a pretty crazy race. It looked like it was a pretty wide-open practice session, so I think (Sunday) could be any type of race, but I can guarantee you the final couple of laps are going to be insane.”
Truex and Ambrose said they are not waiting until the final laps. They both used the word “aggressive” in describing their race strategy for the Aaron’s 499, and said they believe most other drivers feel the same way.
“My plan coming in here is to be aggressive, to try to stay up front all day long,” Truex said. “Based on what I’ve been hearing and reading throughout the week, I think a lot of guys are on that same program. Why not just go out and race and put on a show and try to run up front all day long? That’s our plan, our strategy and what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to stay up front all day and hopefully lead some laps and have some fun out there.”
Ambrose agreed, saying, “Our plan is to drive aggressive all day and try to stay up there. We know that track position is going to be a big thing for everybody even though it’s a plate race. There were definitely more runs (during practice), than what there was at Daytona as far as the cars getting more speed to make things happen out there. So I think it’s going to be a great race.”
Driver introductions for the Aaron’s 499 are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Sunday (CDT), with the 188-lap race set to start shortly after noon.