By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. – When Carl Edwards wins the pole at Bristol, good things happen – for Edwards.
So forgive the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing if he feels optimistic about Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FOX), the eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season.
With the only sub-15-second lap in the money round of Friday’s knockout qualifying at the .533-mile short track, Edwards won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his third at Bristol and the 18th of his career.
In Edwards’ two other pole-winning efforts at Bristol, he has finished first (2008) and second (2011).
“I didn’t know that,” said Edwards, who practiced in both race trim and qualifying trim in Friday’s opening session and was pleased with the speed in his car in both configurations.
“As I’ve spent more time at JGR, I’ve just learned that, from the top to the bottom, it’s just a real team. It’s fun to be a part of it. and we’re having a good time. Hopefully, we can turn this into a win. We have that first pit stall, my guys will be excited about that, and we’ll just go get ‘em.”
Edwards, nicknamed “Concrete Carl” for his success on concrete racing surfaces, rocketed around “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” in 14.991 seconds (127.997 mph) to edge teammate Matt Kenseth (127.419 mph) for the top starting spot by .068 seconds.
“That’s pretty cool to run a less than 15-second lap,” Edwards said. “It’s a real testament to my guys and everybody on this team has been working so hard. You see it each week. The JGR Toyotas are up front, and these cars are really nice to drive. (Crew chief) Dave Rogers and everybody did a really nice job.”
Ford driver Joey Logano (127.191 mph) qualified third to break up the Joe Gibbs Racing party in the top five. JGR teammates Denny Hamlin (126.804 mph) and Kyle Busch (126.553 mph) will start fourth and fifth, respectively.
Having suffered through a star-crossed early season that has produced but one top 10 in seven races, Kenseth hopes his second-place starting position will signal a change in his fortunes.
“Obviously, all of the JGR cars were fast again so thanks to everyone who’s building these things and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) with the engines,” Kenseth said. “In the first round we were pretty good, we thought, and then the second round we tried something and we were too tight, and then the third round we were a little too loose really.
“We were just that much off, but overall it was a great day and we’ll still get a good pit stall and a good place to start, and hopefully we’ll get it driving good tomorrow (in Saturday’s practice) and we can race them on Sunday.”
Jimmie Johnson had the fastest Chevrolet, qualifying sixth. Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Trevor Bayne completed the top 10 in time trials.
Note: On his first lap in the opening round, Ty Dillon hooked the cub off Turn 2 and spun the No. 14 Chevrolet he is driving in place of injured Tony Stewart. The car slid into the back of Landon Cassill’s Ford, which was rolling on the apron after completing a qualifying run.
Both cars were damaged cosmetically, but neither team had to resort to a backup car. Cassill qualified 28th, Dillon 34th.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Food City 500
1. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 127.997 mph.
2. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 127.419 mph.
3. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 127.191 mph.
4. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 126.804 mph.
5. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 126.553 mph.
6. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 126.461 mph.
7. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 126.112 mph.
8. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 126.021 mph.
9. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 125.815 mph.
10. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 125.815 mph.
11. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 125.732 mph.
12. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 125.691 mph.
13. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 125.486 mph.
14. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 125.461 mph.
15. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 125.436 mph.
16. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 125.420 mph.
17. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 125.354 mph.
18. (21) Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 125.330 mph.
19. (24) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 125.134 mph.
20. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 125.052 mph.
21. (34) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 124.995 mph.
22. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 124.979 mph.
23. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 124.597 mph.
24. (23) David Ragan, Toyota, 124.460 mph.
25. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 126.021 mph.
26. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 125.831 mph.
27. (44) Brian Scott #, Ford, 125.773 mph.
28. (38) Landon Cassill, Ford, 125.675 mph.
29. (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 125.642 mph.
30. (83) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 125.592 mph.
31. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 125.281 mph.
32. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 125.207 mph.
33. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 125.003 mph.
34. (14) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 124.379 mph.
35. (30) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 124.242 mph.
36. (15) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 124.146 mph.
37. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Ford, 123.308 mph.
38. (55) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 123.245 mph.
39. (98) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 122.803 mph.
40. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 122.263 mph.
Image: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images