During pole qualifying on Friday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned in a lap time of 29.406 seconds to claim the pole for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. His qualifying time was a new track qualifying record. In all, eight drivers on Friday topped the old track record held by Jimmie Johnson.
“We like the bumps, at least in the corners anway,” Earnhardt said in his positive critique of the track. “Good lap.”
Both Johnson and Earnhardt went out early during the qualifying session, under cloudy conditions. Johnson was the first of the two to post a time, and while beating his old record, his lap wasn’t fast enough to keep him from being knocked from the provisional pole by Earnhardt, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
“I felt like we had a shot to put a good lap down, but I didn’t know we had a chance to to Jimmie,” Earnhardt said. “We got a good cloud cover.”
The two teammates occupied the provisional front row spots for awhile as the skies cleared and the track lost grip.
When partial cloud cover returned, Carl Edwards put up a 29.459-second lap to separate the two Hendrick teammates and claim the second front row starting spot alongside Earnhardt and knock Johnson to third.
“I didn’t get a chance to look at the 88’s lap that close, but he ran a near perfect lap,” Edwards said. “It’s frustrating to know if I went out again, I may have gotten the pole.”
A pair of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin qualified fourth and fifth.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR