Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved one step closer to his goal of winning one last time at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt qualified No. 1 for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 with a speed of 190.973 mph.
It was Earnhardt’s 14th career Cup pole in 612 starts and his first since September 2013 at Dover, 113 races ago. It also marks his third front row start of the season at restrictor plate tracks (outside pole at Daytona 500 and also Talladega).
“Hopefully our car handles good,” Earnhardt told NBCSN. “At night our car is going to have a lot of grip. We’ll see how that all works out.”
With what is only the second Cup pole of his career at Daytona, Earnhardt becomes eligible for next February’s Clash during Speedweeks. Given that he’s set to retire from NASCAR Cup racing at the end of this season, will Junior now wind up making an encore performance for the Clash?
“I’ll talk to the boss and see what he’s got in the shed,” Earnhardt joked.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott will sit alongside of Earnhardt on the front row in Saturday’s race, qualifying second with a speed of 190.795 mph and making it a 1-2 HMS and Chevrolet sweep.
The other HMS driver, seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, qualified 12th (189.450).
No Toyota driver made the final qualifying session. Matt Kenseth, who will start 13th, was the top Toyota.