Carl Edwards took the pole position for next Sunday's Daytona 500, as Roush Fenway Racing teammates locked out the front row and Ford drivers recorded four of the fastest five laps in Sunday's qualifying session.
The marathon session sets only the front row positions, for Edwards and Greg Biffle, and locks in the three fastest go-or-go-home drivers of cars outside the 2011 top-35 in owner points.
Edwards and Biffle secured the first-ever front row sweep at the race for Jack Roush in the team's 25th year of operation. Biffle also has a Daytona 500 pole in 2004 to his credit.
Ford last swept the front row for the 500 in 2007, with Robert Yates Racing teammates David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd. Now, the RFR teammates shot to the top of the times with the powerful Roush Yates-built Ford powerplants.
“This is a real testament to Robert Yates, Doug Yates and our whole engine program,” Edwards said. “These are the best racecars we've had at Daytona. I didn't consider the pole a possibility coming down here, so this is huge. It says so much for Ford to be able to have the fastest cars.”
“I feel so bad for Matt (Puccia, his crew chief), to have missed it by just that much,” Biffle added. “But getting two of our cars on the front row speaks to the team effort all around.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears completed the top five fastest speeds. Earnhardt was the lone Chevrolet in the top five. Mears, who failed to qualify for last year's Daytona 500 for Germain Racing, won't have to face the same distinction this year. That team has switched from Toyota to Ford and was also locked in after having a top-35 position in last year's owner points.
Martin Truex Jr. (seventh) and AJ Allmendinger (18th) were the fastest Toyota and Dodge, respectively. Danica Patrick's first qualifying run for a Sprint Cup race clocked in 30th, while her Stewart Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman were 10th and 17th on the speed charts.
Meanwhile, Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines and David Stremme assured themselves of a spot in the field with their runs on Sunday.
Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, was not guaranteed a starting position after his Wood Brothers Racing team ran only part-time last year. He celebrated his 21st birthday with the fastest speed among those cars not locked in, 193.615mph. “We're locked in, and now we can go for it (on Thursday),” Bayne said. “We don't have to be so content with just being locked in. Now we don't have to lose any sleep, but we do want to keep our car in one piece.”
Surprise efforts came from Raines (No. 26, RIGHT) and Stremme (No. 30, BELOW), who at the moment have unsponsored cars. Raines ensured Front Row Motorsports will have three cars in the Daytona 500, with his teammates Gilliland and David Ragan already locked in. Stremme, the second-to-last car to run, bumped Kenny Wallace from a locked in position with a lap at 191.963mph to give Inception Motorsports its first Daytona 500 start.
Terry Labonte, who was fifth fastest of the cars outside the top-35, has a past champion's provisional available to use and will race in the 500 regardless, either by using it or by racing in as one of the top-two finishers in his Gatorade Duel qualifying race on Thursday.
The other drivers needing to race their way in on Thursday besides Wallace include his brother Mike Wallace, along with Michael Waltrip, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Michael McDowell, Bill Elliott, Robert Richardson Jr., Robby Gordon and JJ Yeley.
Clint Bowyer's car failed post-qualifying technical inspection, as his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota did not meet the necessary height requirement. He'll start at the rear of his Gatorade Duel qualifying race.