Ford found some extra power at one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks – enough to put Greg Biffle on the pole for the first time in almost four years.
Biffle led a Ford contingent to a strong showing in qualifying for Saturday night’s race at Daytona (Florida) International Speedway to earn the top starting spot.
He was one of seven Ford drivers to qualify in the top 14 at a track where Toyota used teamwork to win the Daytona 500 in February.
Biffle was the last car to make a lap in Friday night’s qualifying session and earned the top starting spot with a speed of 192.995 mph in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
It is Biffle’s first pole since Charlotte in October 2012, a streak of 130 races, and he credited engine builder Doug Yates.
Biffle bumped Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch from the top of the leaderboard. Edwards’ lap of 192.748 was good enough for second, while Busch dropped to third with a lap at 192.336.
Joe Gibbs Racing had to scramble to ready Busch’s backup car for qualifying after Busch destroyed his Toyota during a crash in Friday morning’s practice session.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified fourth to give Roush two drivers in the top four.
“It is a good day for the Roush Fenway Fords,” Stenhouse said. “The guys have been bringing really good cars to the speedways, really fast cars. It is really cool that Greg got it for our organization. It shows we are putting a lot of hard work in and it is starting to pay off at every race track.”
Brad Keselowski qualified fifth in a Team Penske Ford, while teammate Joey Logano was 11th and Ryan Blaney was 12th for The Wood Brothers. Roush driver Trevor Bayne was 13th and Aric Almirola 14th for Richard Petty Motorsports. All the Fords use engines built by Yates.
“I am really happy to see a Ford on the pole with Greg Biffle and I think we will be ready to race,” Keselowski said. “It makes you feel really good to see all those Ford teammates up there in the front of the field.”
The Ford drivers will have to work together to fend off the Toyota brigade that ganged up on the field to win the Daytona 500. JGR’s four drivers worked with Martin Truex Jr. to form a juggernaut that led to a Denny Hamlin win as Toyota drivers took four of the top five spots.
Edwards expected a similar strategy on Saturday night.
“That worked really well, I don’t know that it will ever work that well again,” Edwards said.
“I assume we’ll just try to do the same thing which was basically work together if we can and I watched a little bit of the race the other day and everything just worked out perfectly. If we can do that again, it would be great. We really have a good group of cars and we have a great group of teammates so that would be good.”
Austin Dillon, who was involved in a horrible accident on the last lap of this race last year in which his car went airborne into the fence, qualified sixth as the fastest Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson was seventh and the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to advance to the second round of qualifying. Hendrick drivers had won six consecutive poles on restrictor plate tracks dating to the 2015 Daytona 500.
Hamlin was ninth and Kurt Busch 10th.
Aric Almirola was declared the winner of the Xfinity Series race when NASCAR determined he was the leader when the caution flag froze the field shortly before the finish line at Daytona International Speedway.
The race had already been sent to a two-lap overtime shootout when a multicar accident on the backstretch clouded the final running order. A four-car pack led by Almirola and Justin Allgaier hurtled toward the finish, but NASCAR had to freeze the field because of the accident that happened behind them.
Nico Rosberg led Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in both practices for the Austrian Grand Prix.
The second practice was interrupted for more than 30 minutes as heavy rain and hail drenched the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.
Running in the first eight minutes before the rain, Rosberg clocked his fastest lap. Hamilton came within .019 seconds after the rain break.
Rosberg also had the fastest time in the dry morning session, with Hamilton .357 seconds behind.