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Cup Qualifying Cancelled; Earnhardt On Pole

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 4 2015
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was awarded the pole for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was awarded the pole for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)


Stormy weather in Central Florida led to the cancellation of Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

sprint-logo-08The cancellation means that the field will be set by times set during Friday’s first practice session. Fastest in that practice, and awarded the pole for the race, was Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In the first of two practices Friday, Earnhardt posted the day’s fastest lap of 202.284 miles per hour (44.492 seconds) on the 2.5-mile tri-oval, driving the No. 88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet. Earnhardt won the Coke Zero 400 in 2001 and has 15 victories at Daytona overall.

“We have a very fast car … a winning car,” Earnhardt said.

Starting second will be Austin Dillon.

Rounding out the top five are Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Trevor Bayne.

Last season, NASCAR instituted a new procedure, setting fields based on speeds from a weekend’s first practice session, when qualifying is cancelled. Previously, fields were set based on season point standing. Earnhardt said that with rain in the Saturday forecast, there was extra effort to find serious speed in practice.

The pole also gives Earnhardt Jr. a berth into the non-points-paying Busch Clash.

“When the pole locks you into the Busch Clash it’s pretty damn cool,” he said. “I wish that was the way we still kind of got elected or locked into the Sprint Unlimited.  It really was a much more prestigious race when that was the way you got it.  It made the pole a bit more prestigious and sought after as well.  I think that the pit selection here is very important.  That will be great to have that first stall because if we had a shot to win this race we are going to need to be up on the front row towards those last couple of restarts.

“Obviously, I think that leading the race at the end is the best place to be.  That pit selection will give us an opportunity to be more competitive on pit road trying to get that sought after position coming off pit road that final stop.”

Perhaps the biggest loser as a result of the cancellation is the Wood Brothers

team. Because it is only running a partial schedule this year, it will not make Sunday’s race.

“It’s unfortunate we didn’t get a chance to qualify,” driver Ryan Blaney said. “We had a really fast Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion. I was really looking forward to qualifying and getting into the race. Some stuff we can’t control and this is one of them. This is the bad part about running part time. If this happens you’re out. Our next race is Kentucky next week and I’m looking forward to that one.”

Team owner Eddie Wood said, “I really hate this for Motorcraft/Quick Lane and all of our guests. We’ve been lucky. This is the first time this has happened since we started part time in 2009. We’ve dodged a lot of bullets, including last time in Michigan. This one got us. Even though it didn’t rain it’s going to and lightening is a problem. Safety first. We’ll go ahead and get home a day early and get ready for Kentucky. We control what we can control and we can’t control the weather.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 4 2015
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