In his final start at Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will start exactly where he intends on finishing Sunday’s race – in first.
Talladega has served as Earnhardt’s most successful track, with six wins, but in all of the accolades he has gotten over the years at Talladega, he had never won a pole on the 2.66-mile track, but that all changed on Friday afternoon.
With wild applause from the fans in the stands, Earnhardt was the fastest in the first round of qualifying and backed it up in the final round, topping his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, with a lap of 50.256 seconds, 190.544 mph.
“We’ve been fighting our teammate, Chase (Elliott) and his group for poles at these tracks for a long time and it’s been a lot of fun to be honest with you, how these two teams have pushed and elevated each other,” said Earnhardt. “Really, all the credit for getting a pole at a place like this goes to the team and goes to the car and the guys that work on it, the engine, the body men; we’ve got an amazing staff back at Charlotte that builds some awesome stuff.
“I just hold the wheel straight and try not to bounce into the apron, but get as close to it as you can and make sure you run a clean lap. But there ain’t much to it as a driver. This place has meant a lot to me. It’s awesome to hear those fans happy for us and hopefully we’re going to give them a lot more to cheer about before this weekend is over.
“This would be a real important one if we could win for all the fans, all year long, we certainly owe them a win and it would be great to get them one on Sunday.”
Joey Logano, who will be going for his third straight Talladega fall race win, qualified in third, followed by Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Trevor Bayne, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Larson to round out the top-12.
Six of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff drivers made it into the top-12 in qualifying, but the other six will have their work cut out for them on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Jamie McMurray will roll off 15th through 17th, Matt Kenseth starts 19th, Martin Truex, Jr. starts 21st, and Kevin Harvick is the last of the playoff drivers in 22nd.