Daytona Notebook: Fast Lap Proves Stress Reliever For Carl Edwards

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Carl Edwards (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Carl Edwards (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—For the first time during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, Carl Edwards was able to crack a relieved smile.

Edwards had just run a lap at 202.315 mph in the first round of group knockout qualifying for next Sunday’s Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX). Third fastest in time trials — all rounds combined — Edwards earned a guaranteed starting spot in the 57th edition of the Great American Race.

Edwards entered 2015 with a new team, Joe Gibbs racing, but without 2014 owner points that would have given him a provisional slot in the 500, had he failed to advance through time trials or Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel at Daytona (7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

Small wonder it was a happy, relaxed Edwards who took the dais in the Daytona media center after Sunday’s qualifying session.

“We had not really talked about it much publicly,” Edwards said. “There were a lot of meetings and a lot of anxiety over the fact that we could possibly miss the Daytona 500. I think we’ve had four or five meetings trying to come up with a strategy for qualifying.

“To have the third-fastest time of the day — I believe we are locked into the show, which is huge, to say the least. With (sponsor) Arris coming on board in such a huge way — Stanley (Tools) — it was going to be really tough to explain to them if we had trouble in the qualifiers.

“Now we can go out, be aggressive (in the Duels), have fun and try to start up front.”


Jimmie Johnson thought he had missed the boat.

Last to leave pit road during the cat-and-mouse waiting game in the third and final round of Sunday’s knockout qualifying session at Daytona, Johnson felt he had little chance to make it back to the start/finish line before time expired.

Having run the fastest lap in the second round, Johnson initially was in no hurry. If no one got to the stripe in time to run a valid timed lap, Johnson would win the pole for the Daytona 500 by default. But when Martin Truex Jr. left pit road with about a minute remaining in the session, and other cars followed, Johnson began to worry.

He was last to leave pit road, falling in behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.

“We had some cues, timing marks, what we thought we needed to leave pit road at,” Johnson said. “That time came and went. I really felt like no one was going to get back in time, and I would be on pole position…

“As we were making the lap, we got up to speed, through the gears, covered so much territory, they’re giving me my cues, I think most are going to make it, and I’m in a position where I’m not going to make it.”

For Johnson, the waiting game was a risk/reward situation.

“We knew what the risks were,” he said. “In order to get the pole, you’ve got to take a big chance. That could be front row or 12th, but 12th at a plate track is not the end of the world. We were willing to take the risk and gamble to be there.

“We made it around faster than I thought we could. I thought I was out. I thought I was going to miss the cutoff on the time.”

As it turned out, however, Johnson made it to the start/finish line as time expired, and he earned the outside front-row starting position beside Gordon, who won the pole for his last running of the Daytona 500.


Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin had their qualifying times disallowed for infractions discovered during post-qualifying inspection on Sunday.

The left front of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet measured too low in ride height. The track bar split on Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota was three-quarters of an inch larger than the allowable 3.0 inches.

Both cars will start from the rear in their respective Budweiser Duel at Daytona qualifying races on Thursday night.

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