DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The fastest Fords in the field belonged to Roush Fenway Racing drivers Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, who finished third and fourth fastest, respectively, during Sunday’s Daytona 500 pole qualifying.
After Dale Earnhardt Jr. went out first and posted a fast lap of 195.211 miles per hour, Biffle’s No. 16 knocked Earnhardt from the top of the speed charts with his fast lap of 195.818 m.p.h. Rookie Austin Dillon then knocked Biffle from the top spot with his pole-winning run of 196.019.
Edwards came up short in his bid to unseat Dillon from the pole, but still wound up one of five drivers to crack the 46-second mark, touring the 2.5-mile trioval at Daytona International Speedway in 45.986 seconds (195.712).
“The Fords are great,’’ said Edwards, driver of the No. 99. “We weren’t ever good in testing, so everybody went back and worked really hard. Doug Yates and everybody at the [Roush-Yates] engine shop did a great job. We’ve got great cars, so I’m real excited about the race.
“This has been one of the best Speedweeks, speed-wise, that we’ve had in a long time.’’
Biffle will start alongside Dillon on the outside pole of the first 150-mile qualifying heat of the Budweiser Duel Thursday night while Edwards will start beside Martin Truex Jr., who qualified second fastest (195.852), in the second 150-mile qualifying heat.
The 43-car grid will be composed of the two fastest qualifiers, the top 15 winners from each Duel heat, the next four fastest drivers in qualifying who didn’t lock in a spot in the Duel, six provisional starters, and one past champion’s provisional.
“It’s hard to explain how much work goes into these cars,’’ Edwards said. “When we left here testing, we were 30th place or something and they massaged on every little part of that car and I’m really proud of my guys. It’s pretty cool to have this fast of a racecar.’’
Danica Patrick, who made history last year when she became the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500, wound up qualifying in 25th (194.380), but she will have to go to the rear of the field for both her Duel heat and the start of the 500 after her Stewart-Haas team and boss, Tony Stewart, were punished along with Bobby Labonte by NASCAR officials for unapproved engine changes when their Hendrick-built engines blew up during Saturday’s practice session.
“It’s definitely disappointing, knowing that we’re starting from the back of, not so much the Duels but the 500,” Patrick said. “I don’t understand it, but it’s what I have to do.’’
To add to her disappointment, Patrick was caught up in a nine-car melee in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited, a three-segment, 75-lap exhibition among the Coors Light Pole Award winners from last season and the previous Unlimited winners.
Patrick, as it turned out, was taken out by her boyfriend, Roush Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who slammed into the left side of Patrick’s car six laps in.
“This car is better than our car last year,’’ Patrick said. “It’s a bummer we weren’t faster. It’s a bummer that we are going to have to start from the back no matter what. But this is kind of one of those just-pull-it-together kind of days.’’
While Dillon seemed to lap the field, Michael Annett was the second fastest among the eight rookie drivers who made qualifying attempts, turning a fast lap of 194.574 in the No. 7 Chevy fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing that ranked 18th-fastest among all qualifiers. Kyle Larson, who supplanted Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chevy of Ganassi Racing, was the third-fastest rookie (24th, 194.410). “It’s a testament to these guys and all the hard work we’ve put in during the offseason and that makes me really excited,’’ Annett said . . . Dillon’s pole victory in the No. 3 marked the fourth time in Daytona 500 history the No. 3 car has started at the front of the 43-car grid. Buddy Baker (1969) and Ricky Rudd (1983) preceded Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was the last to do so in 1996.Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.