Rained Out Qualifying Gives Dale Earnhardt Jr. Pole For Coke Zero 400 At Daytona

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Jeff Olson ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo:  Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The cancellation of qualifying for the Coke Zero 400 inadvertently gave NASCAR a popular pole sitter Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start first Sunday after the cancellation, which lined up the field according to speeds from Friday’s first practice session. Earnhardt, who had a fast lap of 202.284 mph in the No. 88 Chevrolet on Friday afternoon, will start next to Austin Dillon. Clint Bowyer will start third, Paul Menard fourth and Trevor Bayne fifth.

Earnhardt said he and crew chief Greg Ives went after a good time Friday on purpose.

“I asked Greg before we went out for practice what we were trying to accomplish,” Earnhardt said. “That was the first thing he mentioned was to try to go out there on that first run and try to put a lap down because the weather wasn’t looking so good for today. That was his decision, and it ended up working out for us.”

It will be the first time Earnhardt has started from the pole position in nearly two years; he won the pole at Dover in September 2013.

Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon, who’s racing at Daytona for the final time in his career, will start 24th.

“I’m pretty bummed that it rained out,” Gordon said. “We were on a heck of a streak this year with two poles on the superspeedways, and I wanted to keep that going. I felt like yesterday our car had some really good speed and we’d have a good shot of doing that.”

Sunday’s race is scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m. ET and will be televised live by NBC.

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