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The #3 Returns and Austin Dillon Drives It to the Daytona 500 Pole

February 16th, 2014 at 4:21 PM
By Mark Eddinger

The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet returned to the track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the first time since the Daytona 500 in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed in a last turn crash and on Sunday rookie Austin Dillon drove the famed number to the pole position for next Sunday's Daytona 500.

'Austin Dillon' photo (c) 2012, Mike Kalasnik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Dillon is the fifth rookie in history to win the pole for the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway. He had a speed of 196.019 mph and 45.914 seconds on his lap.

"You just try to stay focused," Dillon said of winning the pole. "Everybody wants to see this number perform well and that's what my goals are to stay focused. It's hard to celebrate because I know this is just qualifying but it is great for these guys. You never know the next time you will be standing in this position again, so it is awesome."

Qualifying on Sunday set only the front row for the Daytona 500 in stone as the rest of the lineup will be determined on Thursday night after the completion of the Budweiser Duel at Daytona. Joining Dillon on the front row for the Daytona 500 will be Martin Truex Jr who qualified his Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet second in his first start with the team.

The drivers who qualified third through sixth know they will start the Daytona 500 as they will at the very worst be able to fall back on their qualifying time to start in the 33rd to 36th positions. Those drivers were Greg Biffle in third, Carl Edwards fourth, Ryan Newman fifth, and Brad Keselowski sixth.

The top 15 finishers in each of Thursday night's Duel races will start in positions three through 32 in the Daytona 500 field. That number will be pushed back to the top 16 if either Austin Dillon or Martin Truex Jr are in the top 15 in their Duel. Positions 37 to 42 will be given to the top six drivers from 2013 owner points and the 43rd position will either go to a past series champion not already in or the seventh driver from owner points.

Dale Earnhardt Jr was the first car out on the track Sunday and held the pole position until Greg Biffle's run 32 cars later. Earnhardt Jr ended up with the seventh fastest time and will start fourth in Duel #1. Jeff Gordon was eighth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr ninth, and Paul Menard tenth.

Other notables in qualifying position were six-time champion Jimmie Johnson in 14th, the fastest Toyota was Matt Kenseth 17th, Kyle Busch 21st, Sprint Unlimited winner Denny Hamlin in 22nd, Kyle Larson 24th, Danica Patrick 25th, Tony Stewart 35th, Bobby Labonte in 44th.

Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart, and Bobby Labonte will have to start both their Duel race and the Daytona 500 from the rear due to having to change engines on Saturday.

Dave Blaney was the only driver of the 49 that was unable to complete a lap as his No. 77 Ford owned by Randy Humphrey had an issue on the warm up lap.

Thursday night's Budweiser Duel at Daytona can be seen live at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Tags: Austin Dillon, Dale Earnhardt, daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway, Furniture Row Racing, Martin Truex Jr., Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Richard Childress Racing

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