For Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega, two fan favorites will make up the front row, with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. scoring his first pole since Atlanta in September 2013 by beating out Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who will join him on the front row.
Stenhouse and Earnhardt set the fastest times in the first round of qualifying and when the final round began, Earnhardt went out and backed up his first round time to scores of cheers from the Talladega faithful. As the last car on track, Stenhouse did exactly the same, posting a fast time of 49.993 seconds, 191.547 mph.
“It’ll be nice to lead the field to green here,” said Stenhouse. “The Fifth Third guys worked really, really hard on these cars. Like I said earlier, Jimmy Fennig has done a great job on these speedway cars. This is cool. Doug Yates builds awesome horsepower. With his dad, Robert, not doing as well as we would like, it would be cool to dedicate this one to him and all the hard work that the engine shop does. Man, it’s a cool way to start the weekend. I’m ready to get to Sunday.”
Stenhouse’s pole marks another step in the resurgence of Roush-Fenway Racing this season, as the No. 17 team is off to one of their best season starts ever since the two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion stepped into the car in 2013.
“There’s a lot of difference,” Stenhouse added. “The culture at our shop is just different. The guys want to work there. They want to show up to work and work harder. They’re seeing that working harder is making different results for us, so it’s been a blast for Trevor and myself to drive these race cars each week. We plan to keep getting better and continue to bring better race cars to the track and go out there and lay it all on the line like we do every week. It’s been really fun to drive, real special. There are a lot of good people at Roush Fenway right now.”
Following Stenhouse and Earnhardt to the green will be Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano to round out the top-12.
Other notables include Martin Truex, Jr in 13th, Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch in 15th, Ryan Blaney in 16th, Clint Bowyer in 17th, Kyle Larson in 21st, Jimmie Johnson in 30th, and Danica Patrick in 31st.