Austin Dillon will start the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season from the front of the grid, securing pole position for the Daytona 500.
Dillon, who drives the #3 Chevrolet, the first time the number has raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup since Dale Earnhardt, Sr.‘s death in 2001, took pole in the Coors Light Pole Qualifying session with a time of 45.914 seconds (196.019 mph) beating second placed man Martin Truex, Jr. to pole by 0.039 seconds.
“[Starting on pole] brings some momentum into our season already to show that RCR cars have speed, and I’m so happy to be working with Gil [Martin, crew chief] and all of our guys,” said Dillon. “I sat down at the test at Nashville we had, and it was fun just to sit back and watch them work. They’re so experienced and good at what they do. I know I’m the young guy out of the group, the rookie of the group, and I really think I’m going to learn a lot this year from these guys.”
The last time the #3 sat on pole was back in 1996, when Earnhardt, the personification of ‘it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish’, took the top spot at Watkins Glen in 1996. It was one of only 17 pole positions he scored in the #3. The last time the #3 won, though, came at a Superspeedway, when Earnhardt took his tenth Talladega victory in 2000.
“It’s real special,” added team owner Richard Childress. “It makes me think back to the days [of Dale Earnhardt]. He’s been in the shop so long, him and his brother Ty, I can remember Dale pushing them around on a creeper down there in the garage when they were just little babies, so that’s how far they go back.
“We know what we’ve got to do. We know what tasks are in front of us. We’ve got this one behind us. We’ve got to go race.”
However, the one-shot showdown system only sets the front row for the race, with positions 3-32 of the Daytona 500 grid set in the two Duel races held on Thursday night.
All the drivers who qualified in the odd numbered positions in the Pole Qualifying will head into the first of the 150-mile duel races, with the top 15 finishers setting the order for the inside line of the Daytona 500 grid. The drivers who qualified in the even numbered spots then race for the outside line in the second duel.
Positions 33-36 will then go to the four fastest cars from qualifying that has not yet made the grid. Positions 37-42 will be assigned to the highest six cars in 2013 owner points that have not qualified via either the Duel or Pole qualifying methods. The 43rd and final grid spot will be assigned to any car owner who has the most recent past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, who raced in the 2013 season, who still has not made the grid. If the position remains unused it will be assigned to the next highest car in 2013 owner points.