Lesser Stars Provide Fireworks In Cup Qualifying
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
It was a day for the have-nots on the beach Friday.
Front Row Motorsports continued to show its strength at restrictor-plate tracks as David Gilliland won the pole for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The pole comes on the heels of teammate David Ragan’s victory at Talladega in the spring. Ragan qualified 11th fastest on Friday.
“I think Front Row Motorsports, our strong point is definitely speedway racing,” Gilliland said. “It is something that is circled on our calendar from the star of the year. We put a lot of emphasis on it. We have good speedway cars.
Gilliland won the pole with a lap of 45.153 seconds, 199.322 mph at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
This is his third pole in 276 Cup series races. It is his first pole and first top-10 start in 2014 and his second pole in 13 races at Daytona International Speedway.
“David Ragan and I both have cars good enough to win tomorrow and that is an exciting feeling,” Gillildand said. “It is something myself and my teammate don’t have every week. We would like to have that but we don’t. We are looking forward to it. Starting from the pole and having the number one pit stall will help and having early track position, all of that is going to help.”
Gilliland wasn’t the only lesser star to qualify well Friday.
Reed Sorenson of Tommy Baldwin Racing posted his first top-10 start of 2014 and his second in 11 races at Daytona.
Qualifying third was Landon Cassill.
“In Talladega I learned a lot,” Cassell said, “because I drive for Johnny Davis Motorsports and we don’t have any major team affiliations. And we really don’t even run a big leased engine over there. We just run our own motors. And I made it through all three rounds driving the 01 car. And I really learned a lot about just focusing on our own deal and just knowing when you get to the end of pit road and getting an idea of who is forming a line; and really just kind of bullying way in and wedging myself in between two fast cars. And so I’ve kind of kept that in the back of my mind every time I’ve done a session. The problem with that is that it’s just kind of a crapshoot. You don’t really know how it’s going to work out.”
Fourth was former Cup champion, Bobby Labonte.
Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was the top big-name, big-team driver as the Hendrick Motorsports star rounded out the top five.
Gilliland’s pole award makes him eligible to compete in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited, the exhibition race that kicks off the Speedweeks in February in Daytona Beach, featuring the previous year’s pole winners.
“It feels awesome,” Gilliland said of the pole. “My first pole every in the Cup series was my first time ever here at Daytona for the 500. That was an extra special weekend but this is every bit as special. Bob Jenkins, our car owner, pours his heart and soul into our team and I know he is proud and excited. It is a huge shot in the arm for our team. When you don’t run the best every week, morale in the shop and the guys, things like this go a long way for an organization like ours and I am proud to be a part of it.”
The qualifying session – which was confined to won round as rain washed out the first two – itself was bizarre as drivers attempted to find drafting partners. Driver varied their speeds and some took slow-speed detours through pit road to find just the right dance partners.
“I ain’t never seen anything like it,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who teamed with Jimmie Johnson (fifth) and Jeff Gordon (ninth) to get in a fast lap midway through the session and qualified seventh. Earnhardt said watching the various strategies unfold with rain on the horizon “the funniest thing I ever seen.”
“That was pretty dumb,” said Logano, who had 14 top-10 starts in the season’s first 17 races. “Sometimes (drivers) are lifting, sometimes going. It is very difficult to figure out what is going on there. Before you know it, you are stopped on the race track and asking yourself what you are supposed to do.”One Comment