Talladega, Ala – It’s hard to believe, but prior to this weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had never won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at the Talladega Superspeedway. In his final start though, Earnhardt Jr. ended that drought.
Earnhardt, powered his No. 88 Chevrolet around the high banked 2.66-mile Alabama track in the final round of Coors Light Pole Award qualifying with a speed of 190.544 mph, good enough to earn his 15th career Cup pole and second of the season.
The pole comes just 24 hours after he received a going away present from the track, a vintage car from his dad’s rookie season. Earnhardt Jr., drove a ceremonial lap on Friday in the blue/yellow No. 2 car from Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Just one day later, Earnhardt was the fastest man in Alabama.
If Earnhardt can earn the victory on Sunday, it would come 17 years to the date from his dad’s 76th and final Cup win. With the way this season has gone for the third generation driver, it could be his final win too.
Joining Earnhardt on the front row is his Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Chase Elliott. The Georgia native turned a blazing speed of 190.412 mph in his No. 24 Chevrolet. It will be the third time in four restrictor plate races this season that Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott will share the front row.
Elliott won the pole for the season opening Daytona 500, while Earnhardt Jr. started alongside in second. In July’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Earnhardt won the pole and Elliott started second. For Sunday’s Alabama 500 (2 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN) they will start 1-2 again.
The next five spots go to all Fords.
Ford drivers had the top nine speeds in the first practice session on Friday and have won all three plate races so far this season.
Two-time defending fall race winner Joey Logano will start third as he qualified his No. 22 Ford with a speed of 190.374 mph. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch will start next to him in fourth as he turned a lap of 190.268 mph in his No. 41 Ford.
The last two winners of the May race in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (190.170 mph) and Brad Keselowski (190.151 mph) will share Row 3. Another Ford driver in Clint Bowyer will start seventh.
Jimmie Johnson (189.774 mph) will start eighth while two more Fords will be next with Ryan Blaney and Trevor Bayne starting ninth and 10th respectively.
Alabama 500 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott
Row 2: Joey Logano, Kurt Busch
Row 3: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski
Row 4: Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson
Row 5: Ryan Blaney, Trevor Bayne
Row 6: Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson
Row 7: Danica Patrick, Daniel Suarez R
Row 8: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch
Row 9: Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon
Row 10: Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard
Row 11: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick
Row 12: Erik Jones R, AJ Allmendinger
Row 13: Ty Dillon R, Aric Almirola
Row 14: Ryan Newman, Chris Buescher
Row 15: Michael McDowell, Landon Cassill
Row 16: Justin Marks, Matt DiBenedetto
Row 17: David Ragan, Jeffrey Earnhardt
Row 18: Brendan Gaughan, Mark Thompson
Row 19: Joey Gase, Cole Whitt
Row 20: Gray Gaulding, D.J. Kennington