After being consistently fast during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Austin Dillon returned the No. 3 to the top of the DIS scoring pylon during Daytona 500 front row qualifying on Sunday with a lap time of 45.914 seconds (196.019 mph). That time was fast enough to make Dillon the fifth series Rookie of the Year candidate to claim a pole for the Daytona 500.
“I feel like this is all for the guys at RCR (Richard Childress Racing),” Dillon said. “They brought the house down here. Our engine has been really good since we have been here.”Hopefully, Thursday (Budweiser Duel) and Sunday (Daytona 500) go as well.”
Both Chevrolet and Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines swept the front row for the Feb. 23 Daytona 500, as Martin Truex Jr. claimed the other front row starting spot for his first race with the single-car team of Furniture Row Racing.
“Front row — that is what we are here for today,” Truex said. “Obviously can’t say enough about this team. What I great job. . . . ECR engines front row; we are lucky to have them under the hood.”
Dillon and Truex were the only two drivers to solidify their starting positions for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. The remainder of the 43-car race field will be set based on results from two Budweiser Duel races, scheduled for Thursday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the first of 49 drivers to make a qualifying attempt on Sunday. He sat on the provisional pole for more than half of the session until he was knocked to second by Greg Biffle. Earnhardt was then moved off the provisional front row by Ryan Newman.
Soon after, Dillon made his qualifying attempt to lay permanent claim on the Daytona 500 pole and move Biffle over to second. Truex would then knock Biffle off the front row to claim the other starting spot set by the qualifying session.
The first of he Budweiser Duels to set the rest of the 43-car Daytona 500 field is scheduled to take the green flag shortly after 7 p.m. ET on Thursday.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR