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CARL EDWARDS CLAIMS POLE FOR DUCK COMMANDER 500
By John Sturbin
Carl Edwards came to grips with NASCAR’s low downforce package and Goodyear’s revised tire compound offerings to earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of the season Friday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Edwards emerged from knockout qualifying around the high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval via a hot lap of 27.748-seconds at 194.609 mph to secure the Coors Light Pole Award for Saturday night’s 20th annual Duck Commander 500.
“This is fun, guys,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing. “Each time we went out there, even in qualifying trim when usually the car is just nailed down and stuck like glue, the car was sliding around. If I missed the corner a little bit, I could adjust and get the car to kind of turn where I wanted to, that’s really fun. I think Goodyear has done a really good job; I applaud NASCAR for taking downforce away. We haven’t raced yet, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to drive these cars here.”
Edwards will start opposite Team Penske’s Joey Logano, who qualified at 193.306 mph in his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion. Third went to Martin Truex Jr., who also ran at 193.306 mph, in the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota. While Truex, of Furniture Row Racing, matched Logano’s speed, Logano was awarded the position via championship owner points. Truex posted his eighth top-10 start at TMS, and fourth in seven races this season.
Edwards admittedly was nervous as Logano went out for a final flying lap late in the session.
“I was; it was so easy to make a mistake,” said Edwards, who earned his 17th pole in 416 Cup starts. “Each one of my laps I made a mistake and I assumed when he went out again, he made a mistake and he knows what it was and he’s going to go address it. I wasn’t sure because the tires weren’t falling off too much; I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to do it. He had me nervous. That’s really cool. Those guys have been so fast in practice and it was cool to be able to qualify in front of them. That was a lot of fun.”
Logano said he was “proud” of his team’s effort, which resulted in his sixth top-10 start of 2016 and eighth in 16 races at TMS.
“I felt like going to sleep last night that we had a car that could quite possibly be on the pole today,” Logano said. “We came close. Second is not awful. We’ll have a good pit stall and look forward to the race. It’s gonna be fun out there. There’s a lot of slipping and sliding and it seems like it’s falling off more than Atlanta (Motor Speedway)”¦it seemed like in practice yesterday, so in qualifying you can imagine how that was with the tire fall-off definitely quite a bit different with each round.”
Rookie Chase Elliott was fourth at 193.036 mph in the No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Roush Fenway Racing fifth in the No. 17 Zest Ford at 192.940 mph.
Jimmie Johnson, who is working on a three-race Cup winning streak at TMS, was 11th at 191.510 mph in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS fielded by Hendrick Motorsports.
A three-time Cup winner at TMS, Edwards also qualified on-pole for the 2013 November Cup race in Fort Worth.
NASCAR’s low downforce package and TMS’ “worn-out” surface are paired here with Goodyear’s latest compounds. While teams in both the Cup and XFINITY series are running the same left-side tire code, they are racing with their own right-side codes.
In Cup, both tire codes are being run for the first time. Like last year at Texas, the right-side tire code employs Goodyear's multi-zone tread technology, which combines two distinct tread compounds on the same tire _ the outboard 10 inches of the tread (Traction Zone) features a compound that is designed for grip, while the inboard two inches of the tread (Endurance Zone) is toughened to enhance durability on the part of the tire that experiences the most heat and takes the most abuse.
Compared to what was run at TMS last season, the right-side tire features a construction change, and a compound change on the outboard 10 inches to give the cars more grip. The left-side tire features an updated construction and mold shape, as well as a compound change for more grip. This tire setup is the result of a test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Dec. 14. Traditionally, TMS, Homestead and Chicagoland Speedway have shared the same tire setup on their respective 1.5-mile layouts.
“Hopefully the race goes well,” Edwards said. “We have some practice later. I just cannot thank my guys on this Stanley Tools Camry enough _ they are unbelievable.”
Cup teams will return to the track for “Happy Hour” practice from 6:30-7:50 p.m. (EDT).