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NASCAR Cup: Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Coke Zero 400 pole at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr. receives a painting commemorating highlights of his NASCAR racing career at Daytona International Speedway during a press conference at the track on June 30, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. receives a painting commemorating highlights of his NASCAR racing career at Daytona International Speedway during a press conference at the track on June 30, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a Hendrick Motorsports dominance of Coke Zero 400 qualifying at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Friday, posting a 47.127-second/190.973 mph lap in the second of two rounds of single-car qualifying to claim the pole for Saturday night’s race, his last start at Daytona in his final year of full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition.

“I have to give Hendrick Motorsports a lot of credit; particularly for me personally, it has been the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) bunch,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve been kind of pushing each other over the last several years in qualifying at Talladega and Daytona. It’s been a healthy competition. That’s why we win poles and qualify so well at some of these race tracks is a healthy competition within the company. Greg (Ives, crew chief) and all the guys deserve all the credit for the car. I don’t do anything in qualifying except hold the wheel and make sure I don’t hit the apron. The car does everything. A lot of credit to the power and the body men back at the shop. All that stuff is so critical, and they did a great job today.”

Chase Elliott qualified second to give Hendrick a sweep of the front row, reverse of the HMS-Elliott-Earnhardt front row the last time the Cup Series was at Daytona for the Daytona 500 in February.

“It was definitely close,” Elliott said. “I’m happy for those guys. It’s so hard to tell when you’re out there making laps how it’s going to be or if you did anything any better. But I’m proud of our NAPA Chevy team. We improved a little bit, ,I think, from round one to round two, which was nice. We just didn’t improve enough. So, we’ll go to work tomorrow. I’m excited for this race. It’s such a cool race, here, at Daytona under the lights.”

Earnhardt and Elliott also were the fastest two drivers in the opening round of qualifying. After leading final practice on Thursday, Earnhardt opened qualifying by topping the first round with a 47.157-second/190.852 mph lap

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers advanced to the final round of 12, and three of them qualified for spots in the first two rows of the starting grid, with Kasey Kahne qualifying fourth. Jimmie Johnson qualified 12.

“I think if we can all be in those positions later in the race and as the race continues to unwind, if we can all show strength, there is certainly strength in numbers, and if those numbers are on your side, that’s a good thing,” Elliott said. “When it comes to making pit stops and the strategies and how all these manufacturers run these racers now, we can run well, not just in qualifying, but throughout the entire race. That’s an advantage, not just qualifying well.”

Kahne will share row two with third qualifier Brad Keselowski. Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five to share row three with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Toyota struggled in qualifying, with the manufacturer receiving no representation in round two. Matt Kenseth was the highest-qualifying Toyota driver in 13th.

Here’s a look at the starting grid for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway:
Row 1 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet), Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet)
Row 2 — Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Row 3 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 4 — Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet)
Row 5 — Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford)
Row 6 — Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Row 7 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford)
Row 8 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 9 — Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 10 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 11 — Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Landon Cassill (No. 34 Ford)
Row 14 — A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford)
Row 15 — Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet), David Ragan (No. 38 Chevrolet)
Row 16 — Darrell Wallace Jr. (No. 43 Forde), Brendan Gaughan (No. 75 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — Elliott Sadler (No. 7 Chevrolet), Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet)
No. 18 — Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet), Corey LaJoie (No. 23 Toyota)
Row 19 — Reed Sorenson (No. 55 Toyota), Ryan Sieg (No. 83 Toyota)
Row 20 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 33 Chevrolet), D.J. Kennington (No. 15 Toyota)

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on June 30, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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