DARLINGTON, S.C. – Qualifying draw was not the most important factor during time trials for the 62nd Annual Showtime Southern 500 because the track surface actually heated up as the cars went out to qualify. In the end, the conditions were just right for Kasey Kahne, who laid down a blistering lap of 27.131 seconds, a new track record for Darlington Raceway. Kahne was the only driver to top the 181-mph barrier with his lap of 181.254 mph.
On the outside of the front row was the fastest car in practice with Ryan Newman at the wheel. Newman’s lap was 27.255 seconds at a speed of 180.429 mph.
The second row has last year’s winner of the event, Denny Hamlin, on the inside with a lap of 27.300 seconds and a speed of 180.132 mph. The outside second row contains the points leader Carl Edwards who knocked down a lap of 27.323 seconds and a speed of 179.980. The third row contains Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose.
This is Kahne’s 21st Sprint Cup pole in his 262nd start and his first pole postion this season. Kahne has competed in nine races at Darlington in his career and this is his fourth pole award. This is fourth top-10 starting position for Newman and Hamlin this season. Andy Lally was the fastest qualifying rookie, unfortunately he was 45th and did not make the event.
When asked if the track was different than when he won the Truck race in March, Kahne felt it was a little different. “It’s a little bit different, but it’s the same tire so some of the things are similar. You just have so much more power with these Toyota engines on the Cup side. These cars just run so well and they have a lot of power. Other than that, there are some similarities for sure.”
Kahne did admit he was nervous qualifying. “This is a track where I get a little nervous every time. I shake a little bit, but we’ve won some poles here in the past and have always felt pretty good about qualifying. I love qualifying here, but I was definitely a little nervous.”
Hamlin felt like he left it all on the track. “To be honest with you, I think that’s about all that we had in qualifying trim. It was a big pick up for us. We definitely didn’t run as fast as the [No.] 4 (Kahne) car ran, but our car was extremely fast in race trim. That’s something encouraging for us – we’re good in race trim and qualifying trim.”
Newman was happy with his run. “It was a good run for the Tornados Chevrolet. I’m proud of the guys. We unloaded off the truck good and we had an opportunity to come here and test with the Goodyear tire test and I think it helped out, for sure; especially with the abbreviated practice (due to rain). We’ve just got to make sure we have all our Is dotted and our Ts crossed for tomorrow. There are some big transitions when the sun goes down. so we’ll see if we can stay on top of those things.”
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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