Rain Shortens Qualifying, Gilliland Wins Pole
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – David Gilliland put the ‘front row’ in Front Row Motorsports on Friday.
Gilliland set the fastest time in the lone NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400, then watched rain wash away anyone’s chance to beat him.
It’s the third pole of Gilliland’s career, all of them coming on restrictor-plate tracks. Reed Sorenson – a Tommy Baldwin Racing driver whose best start prior to Friday was 22nd – qualified second.
Landon Cassill, Bobby Labonte and defending Coke Zero 400 winner Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.
The abbreviated qualifying session meant that some big-name drivers didn’t get enough time to draft together and post a fast lap. Brad Keselowski starts 26th, with Joey Logano (28th), Denny Hamlin (37th), Kyle Busch (39th) and Kurt Busch (40th) also in the back.
Gilliland didn’t mind seeing smaller teams take the spotlight.
“We’re excited about (the pole) obviously,” Gilliland said. “Restrictor plate tracks are our strong suit as an organization. It was crazy, it was wild, it was chaos. You don’t really know what to do to get a good lap.”
The key for Sorenson was listening to a voice from above.
“I just kind of did what my spotter said,” Sorenson said. ‘They had it more organized on the roof than what we had. For a while we were going slower, and then we took off. It’s exciting for us to be on the front row, and hopefully we can be up there all night and be there at the end.”
Matt Kenseth qualified sixth, followed by Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. in seventh. Earnhardt will try to become just the sixth driver in Sprint Cup history to sweep both points races at Daytona in year.
David Ragan, points leader Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle completed the top 10. Joe Nemechek was the only driver to miss the field.