Edwards On Phoenix Pole, Allmendinger On Edge
Carl Edwards will start on the pole for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway thanks to a field-best qualifying lap on Friday afternoon.
And A.J. Allmendinger will start without a clue to what his future holds.
Edwards turned a fast lap of 136.389 mph. The pole is the third of the season for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, who is also looking for his first Cup victory of the year and first Cup victory at PIR.
“This was the best circumstance we could have,” Edwards, who went out late in the qualifying session, said. “We’ve got a great race car, I love the race track and we couldn’t have done better with the draw. It’s just a great day.”
Edwards won the Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday.
Allmendinger was second fastest in qualifying with a lap at 136.250 in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.
“I felt like I got everything I could out of the race car there, and I knew Carl was going to be tough there at the end,” Allmendinger said. “I feel good about what everybody is doing on the race team, it’s such a tough time here, so I’m just happy and proud of the guys back at the shop and here at the race track. Having Insignia back on the race car is really cool, so it’s a good starting spot and now we’ve just got to put in a good race on Sunday.”
The backdrop to Allmendinger’s good day is the situation swirling around the Petty team. They are reportedly having trouble paying their bills and unless economic relief comes soon in the form of new investors, the team may be racing for the final two times next week and this week.
“There’s no secret right now with what our race team is going through right now,” Allmendinger said. “I think it shows my crew guys here and back at the shop and everybody at RPM that there’s really two scenarios that can happen in a situation like this – you can try to band together and be stronger and come to the race track more focused, or you can let things start tearing you apart. It’s wearing on everybody. It wears on me, but with that said, everybody inside the race team doesn’t let it effect each other.
“Everybody is working well together. With everything they’re still having to go through, to build great race cars, Doug Yates and everybody at Ford is still giving us great horsepower. It’s a tough thing, but once we get to the race track our cars are here and it’s pretty simple, we focus on the job at hand. That’s all you can do. You just put your head down and keep working hard and that makes it a lot easier to go out there and run up front and try to sell the race team than struggling and trying to sell the race team. That’s all we can do.”
Asked if there is any news on the economic front, Allemendinger said, “No, honestly we’re taking it day-to-day. It’s not something I can really focus on and help do anything with. My job is to get in the race car and run strong. We know Richard and everybody there is doing the best they can to go out there and figure out this situation and that’s all we ask, so we just focus on day-to-day – just getting to the race track. These next two weeks are really important.”
Kurt Busch, despite going eighth and, hence, during the hottest part of the session, put down a lap at 136.240 mph to earn the No. 3 starting spot in his Penske Racing Dodge.
Greg Biffle, Edwards’ teammate, qualified fifth fastest while Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray was fifth in a Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet.
Rounding out the top 10, in order, were David Reutimann, Kyle Busch, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano.
Series points leader Denny Hamlin qualified 17th fastest while second place Jimmie Johnson, who is 33 points behind Hamlin, was 21st.
“We wanted the pole,” Johnson said. “That is what we worked on all day was to have a car that could do that. Had a really good balance in practice and certainly hoped to pick up enough to get the pole here today. The further forward you can start, everything is just so much better for you. It is a short race. Track position helps there. Pit road pick. The better we qualify, the happier we are going to be.”
Kevin Harvick, third in points, was 29th.
Hamlin, when asked if it made him happy to qualify in front of Johnson and Harvick, said, “A little bit. Obviously, you don’t have to pass them. You hope not, if your car runs good. For us, we know those guys are going to be coming to the front. The 29 (Harvick) qualifies in the back most weeks and finds his way to the front. It’s no different than us. For us, I always say never look into qualifying too much. But, for us, once we’re the better of the three.”No Comment