NASCAR: Edwards claims pole in Byrd 500
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) – Roush Fenway Racing continued its strong qualifying runs Friday by sweeping the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Carl Edwards turned a lap of 128.014 mph in a Ford to knock teammate Greg Biffle from the top starting spot for Sunday’s race. Biffle’s lap of 127.622 mph was good enough for second.
It gave a RFR driver the pole for the third consecutive race. Edwards won the pole in Phoenix and Matt Kenseth won the pole at Las Vegas, where Edwards picked up his first win of the season.
Regan Smith qualified a career-best third in a Chevrolet, and his 6.25 qualifying average this season is best in the Sprint Cup Series. Paul Menard was fourth in a Chevy, and David Ragan was fifth to put three Roush drivers in the top five.
“This is fun; the cars have just been great,” Edwards said. “Greg motivated me. I didn’t think anybody was going to be able to go that fast. I thought that the track had slowed down a lot more than that, so I was out there driving my heart out.”
It was Edwards’ ninth career pole, second of the season and fifth in the last 19 races.
For Biffle, it was a nice start to the weekend after his disastrous run at Las Vegas two weeks ago. Although he thought his car was just a tick off from Edwards’ race-winner, a series of problems in the pits led to a 28th-place finish. He’s 32nd in the points – dangerously close to falling outside the top-35 and having to qualify on speed to make the race.
“That would definitely be a concern of mine – having to qualify in the show, being the organization that we are and having fast cars this year,” Biffle said. “We arguably had one of the fastest cars at Las Vegas … and we finished five laps down. That’s hard to do when you’ve got a really, really fast car.”
Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson qualified sixth and was followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon. Martin Truex Jr. qualified seventh in a Toyota, and Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 10.
Matt Kenseth, the fourth Roush driver, qualified 11th.
Kurt Busch, a five-time Bristol winner, was the highest qualifying Dodge driver at 20th.
Meanwhile, Goodyear was plagued all day Friday with tire issues when the ones at Bristol failed to lay enough rubber on the track surface. Typically, as drivers run more laps, rubber grounds into the surface and alleviates excessive wear.
But it didn’t happen after a full day of track activity Friday, even after the sun came out and the track surface got hotter. Drivers were only able to go about 30 laps before their right-side tires wore down to the cords.
So Goodyear called for about 1,300 new tires to be shipped from North Carolina to Bristol in time for the Nationwide Series race on Saturday. Nationwide teams will qualify Saturday morning on the tires already at the track, then switch to the new ones in the race during an early competition caution.
Goodyear officials said they were like everyone else in “wondering why” the tires were wearing down so quickly.
Instead of the track “rubbering in” and accumulating a layer of rubber on the surface that creates more traction and longer wear, the tires were disintegrating into a powdery substance.
“It was like watching them blow flour across the race track,” Tony Stewart said of track officials blowing the track surface between practice sessions.
The tire issues have raised concerns among drivers who aren’t sure what Sunday will bring.
“The potential is there to completely turn this field upside-down – guys that were struggling today could be dominant on Sunday,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be very interesting, at a place like this the tire is hugely important. There are going to be some computers burning up trying to come up with all the different possibilities.”