Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed the pole position for Kentucky Speedway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts with a series track-record 183.636 mph (29.406 seconds) lap in the No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation-sponsored machine.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver captures his first Kentucky Speedway NSCS pole and first in the series this season. He will share the front row with Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards, who qualified second with a 183.306 mph (29.459 seconds) laps. Edwards will start in an NSCS top 10 for the eighth this season and his second in three races at Kentucky Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr., confessed that he held a unique advantage during his qualifying run.
“In between the last practice and qualifying, I got my hair cut at Great Clips, That might’ve had something to do with it, too. I don’t mind letting that secret out of the bag because they’re a sponsor of mine. It really happened. I was a little lazy this week and it had been a been a few weeks since I had my haircut. Luckily somebody from Great Clips was here to get the job done,” he said.
He also benefitted from clouds that moved over the track moments before his qualifying run.
“I was sitting on pit row before we were about to go out, and there had been about 6-7 cars go before me that had cloud cover,” he explained. “And I’m just thinking in my mind ‘The track temp’s comin’ down. The track temp’s comin’ down more and more and more. If we don’t get any more sun, it’ll continue to come down and we’ll grab more speed. And I could drive it deeper into the corner, and be able to handle things and the tires would hook up. I’m just really going to have a good opportunity here,” he said.
His effort eclipses the previous NSCS qualifying record set last season by his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, with a 181.818 mph (29.700 seconds) lap.
With the speed he showed this afternoon, Earnhardt Jr., likes his chances of becoming the third different NSCS winner in Kentucky history.
“I think we’ve got great speed and we’re real competitive. We worked on some things in practice and found what we think the car likes, and what we think the car is going to want.
“I like the track. It’s got a lot of age on the asphalt, which we like. You can run the bottom or the top -you have a lot of different options. You’re not really restricted or limited to where you can run in the corners, and we don’t really mind the bumps in the corners. It just kind of adds character if they’re not too severe, but there some pretty bad bumps on the front straight away that aren’t a ton of fun, but they don’t really effect how the car drives. You just kind of go through them. “
“I enjoy the track. It’s a great area. We’ve got a lot of fans here, and it’s a fun track to race on. We thought we had a top 5 car in practice, and we got some good cloud cover six or seven cars in front of us before we went to qualify that brought the track temp down and gave us a good advantage—a good opportunity to run a bit quicker lap than maybe what the car had in it.”
Johnson, who turned a 183.144 mph (29.485 seconds) lap, will share the second row with and 2011 Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts winner Kyle Busch, who clicked off a 182.593 mph (29.574 seconds) circuit.