It seems that Joe Gibbs Racing has found something. A week after the four-car team had all of their cars finish in the top five, becoming the first team since August 2008 at Michigan to do so, Carl Edwards led the JGR contingent Friday winning the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Edwards ran a lap of 28.179 seconds, 135.164 mph, early in the final five-minute session to secure his 14th career pole, his first of the season and his first at the 1-mile oval in Loudon New Hampshire. His teammate Kyle Busch, who won last week at Kentucky will start fourth, third JGR driver Denny Hamlin fifth and fourth driver Matt Kenseth eighth.
“Right now it just feels right,” Edwards said. “Everybody is just working hard and these are two kind of standalone race tracks. There is really nothing else like them. It’s fun. “
The only drama in the final round came in the form of Penske Racing driver Joey Logano. Logano, who won here in the fall was out not long after Edwards but came just of the pole. His lap of 28.209, 135.021 mph, came up just short but did give him a front row starting position of second for Sunday.
“Second,” Logano who led the second of three rounds said. “It seems like the story of our week here coming off Kentucky with a strong second-place run and then qualifying second here as well. Not that I’m complaining about it, but it’s not much fun finishing second, being so close to getting trophies and pole flags and all the fun stuff. There’s not really much fun that happens when you finish second, but we’re close. “
Driving for the Wood Brothers, Ryan Blaney was just grateful to qualify. The last two qualifying sessions have been rained out and without enough starts on the season, the team missed both Daytona and Kentucky. Blaney led the first round, but failed to advance beyond the second. Still he’s grateful to be starting 16th Sunday.
“We definitely got a lot tighter the second round for some reason, I’m not sure why,” Blaney said. “I thought our SKF Ford Fusion was really, really good in the first session obviously with being the fast time. In the second one on both laps we were just really too tight and couldn’t get the front end to do anything, so we’ll go back and try to figure it out on why we lacked a lot of grip the second run.”
“We’re just happy to be racing here this weekend,” he added. “The past couple weekends have been pretty tough on us with Daytona and Kentucky getting rained out, knowing we had a fast car, and I think we’ve got a fast SKF Ford Fusion for this weekend. It’s not the starting spot we wanted, but I think our race car will be pretty good.”
Kurt Busch will start sixth, Jimmie Johnson seventh, with Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top ten behind Kenseth. In a somewhat ironic twist Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick will share row 10. The two had a tangle on track at Kentucky last week that left Patrick fuming. She will start 20th next to Earnhardt Jr.
“I don’t think that the changes that we made for qualifying were good,” Patrick said. “You learn with every mistake and we know not to do that and waste a run tomorrow, but it would have been nice to learn it in a practice session, but we didn’t. So we made the most of it.”
“It wasn’t a great qualifying, but it was okay,” Patrick added. “I always feel like if you are in front of that second pace car you can salvage a decent day.”
With 44 entries, only Reed Sorenson failed to make the show. The full qualifying results can be found here, the full lineup here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway gets the green flag Sunday just after 1:30 p.m. ET, with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 1:00 p.m. ET.