DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement tour is making an emotional stop at NASCAR’s most famous track.
Earnhardt won his first pole Friday since Sept. 29, 2013, and will lead the field to the green flag in what could be his final Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt reached 190.973 miles per hour during his fast lap, putting his No. 88 Chevrolet in the top spot for the Saturday night race. The pole also earned Earnhardt an automatic spot in the exhibition Clash at Daytona in 2018, giving him an opportunity to cut his impending retirement short and get back behind the wheel at the famed track.
‘‘I’ll talk to my boss and see what he has in the shed,’’ Earnhardt quipped.
Earnhardt bumped Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott to second, reversing the starting order for the Daytona 500 when Elliott landed the pole and Earnhardt started on the outside of the front row. It was a strong day overall for Hendrick, with Kasey Kahne qualifying fourth. Brad Keselowsk qualified third for Team Penske.
All the attention, though, was on Earnhardt, winner of the 2004 Daytona 500.
Although Earnhardt hasn’t ruled out racing in Xfinity Series races at Daytona in the future, his trip to NASCAR’s birthplace is being treated like a career finale.
‘‘A lot of great things have happened here,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of drivers have made their careers here. It is something to be proud of if you are in the industry. It is a pretty fun race track.’’