Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Coors Light Pole award on Friday for the third annual Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. This marks Earnhardt Jr.’s first pole and third top-10 start in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points season.
Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet set a track qualifying record with a lap of 29.406 seconds. Nine different drivers posted faster laps than the previous record, which was set by Jimmie Johnson in 2012.
Earnhardt Jr.’s last win came from Michigan International Speedway last year when he won the Quicken Loans 400. Still looking for a win this season, Earnhardt Jr. commented on how urgent he feels he needs to get a win before the chase. He said, “I think we keep working hard and the wins will come. We have had some really fast cars, just had some bad luck. Thought we had an opportunity to win at Michigan and just with the engine failure we weren’t able to get that done. If we just keep working and running well we will get our opportunities to get to Victory Lane”
The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished in the top-5 at Kentucky last year and was asked if he has a lot of confidence coming into this track and if he feels like turn three is one of those critical parts of the track that you have to get down. He replied, “Well, it looked critical last night in the Truck race, some guys having some difficulty in turn three. The track is just unique and very bumpy and got a lot of character. I enjoy racing here. I think that the track gets better every year. Just look forward to having a good car…I enjoy coming here and we’ve got a lot of fans in this area that enjoy seeing us race here.”
The No. 99 UPS Ford driver, Carl Edwards will be starting in second position. This is his eighth top-10 start of 2013 and his second in three races at Kentucky Speedway. Carl Edwards looks forward to racing at Kentucky. He said, “Kentucky is fun for three reasons: I have great memories of my first NASCAR win there in the Truck series, the track has bumps and character and the fans are passionate as any. We are proud to represent UPS this weekend and hopefully we can deliver them a victory.”
The Sprint Cup Series points leader, Jimmie Johnson, will start the Quaker State 400 in third spot. This is his ninth top-10 start in seventeen races this season. Johnson, a five time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, has never been in Victory Lane at Kentucky. He was asked when he goes to a track that he hasn’t won at before if that gives him something to really shoot at. He said, “It gets me excited. There’s five tracks left that I haven’t won at. I think Stewart is down to two or three. We don’t talk about it amongst Stewart, Gordon, or myself, but I think we all secretly would love to be the first to win at every track that we compete at. I think Stewart is the closest right now. I want to get closer. I’ve been very close here. I’ve been very close at Michigan. I’ve been very close at Chicago. So, I hope we can get one or two of them this year. I would love to start here.”
Last week’s winner of the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Martin Truex Jr., will start the Quaker State 400 in nineteenth position. Still pumped about last week’s win, Truex Jr. looks forward to the possibility of repeating that win. When asked how the bumps impact racing at Kentucky, Truex Jr. commented, “The bumps, yes-it’s so rough. So difficult with these cars to get them working. We’re on bump stops…It’s very, very difficult –very hard on the crew chiefs. I think it’s fun to drive on because you can move around on the race track and it’s so line sensitive and you have to really focus and hit your marks…Definitely a cool place to race, for sure. Very, very challenging obviously. It’s a good place to race—I enjoy it.”
The green flag will fall on the Quaker State 400 Saturday night at 7:30 at Kentucky Speedway.