Monday, February 20, 2012

Roush, Ford Dominate Daytona Qualifying

Carl Edwards turned the fastest qualifying lap at Daytona International Speedway in over a decade – 194.738 mph – to lead a dominant Ford effort and put his No. 99 Fastenal Ford on the pole for the 54th annual Daytona 500. Turned in blustery conditions at the World Center of Racing Sunday, Edwards’ lap was the fastest since 1999, when Jeff Gordon claimed the pole for the Daytona 500 at 195.067 mph. Dale Jarrett took the Coke Zero 400 pole later that season at 194.860 mph.

Big day for RFR and Ford.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Edwards after his pole-winning run. “This is very special. It’s not a driving accomplishment, this is a team accomplishment. There’s a lot of pride in this for everyone. I’m excited to have all the guys back at the shop this week know they sent the best racecars down to Daytona.”

Sunday’s “Great American Race” will mark the third-consecutive year that teammates will lead the 43-car field to the green flag. For the first time, Roush Fenway Racing will do the honors with Edwards starting alongside teammate Greg Biffle. “It’s a sign of the strength of the team,” Edwards said. “It’s not that we just have one car up there. To have that whole front row says a lot about Roush Fenway Racing and Ford.”

The last driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole was Dale Jarrett, who turned the trick in 2000.

Biffle, who was the last Roush driver to win the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2004, wheeled his No.16 3M Ford to the second-fastest lap of 194.087 mph – just .155 seconds slower than Edwards. The entire top 10 posted blistering speeds, with just .270 seconds separating them.

“I’d run the Gatorade Duel tonight if I could,” said an animated Biffle afterward. “I can’t wait for the 150s. I can’t wait for practice. I want to get in the car and go. I’m just juiced up.”

Ford took four of the top-five positions in qualifying; the first time that Ford has swept the front row since David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd did it in 2007. Team owner Jack Roush was jubilant for both his team and manufacturer, saying, “We did great today. Doug Yates and the guys in the engine shop did a nice job. Robbie Reiser and the folks in the chassis and body shop built nice cars and the teams prepared them well. We worked all winter getting ready for this. It’s just the beginning. We hope we can put it together for the Twin 150s and for the 500 next Sunday.”

Of the 49 cars that attempted to qualify yesterday, 14 were required to qualify on time. Three drivers locked-in Daytona 500 starting spots with their qualifying speeds; defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne (193.615), Tony Raines (192.534) and David Stremme (191.963). Former series champion Terry Labonte will also start the race via the Past Champion’s Provisional.

Sunday’s qualifying session also determined the starting line-ups for Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona. Edwards will lead the first race, while Biffle will start from the pole in second 150-lap event.

Clint Bowyer, who had posted the 22nd-fastest lap, will drop to the back of the field in the second Duel after his 5-Hour Energy Toyota failed to pass post-qualifying inspection. The violation will not affect his starting position in the Daytona 500.

Speedweeks 2012 resumes at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday, Feb. 22 with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at noon.

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