Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger was 18th fastest in Sunday’s qualifying session for the Feb. 26 Daytona 500. That means “Dinger” and the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge Charger will start ninth in the second 150-mile qualifying race this Thursday here at Daytona International Speedway.
In the unique qualifying format for “The Great American Race,” only the front row – the Coors Light Pole Award winner and the second-fastest qualifier – are locked into next Sunday’s starting field. Roush Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle earned those honors, with Edwards turning in a fast lap of 46.216 seconds (194.738 mph) and Biffle just behind with a 46.371-second (194.087 mph) lap.
“A solid qualifying run for our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger,” Allmendinger said of his 46.603-second (193.121 mph) lap around this historical 2.5-mile tri-oval track. “I gave it all that I had. I thought we might be a touch quicker from yesterday. It’s hard to tell as heavy as the wind is today. It’s good to know that the Penske guys build race cars exactly the same because our times (the No. 22 and No. 2 cars’) have been right on top of each other throughout all of practice. We didn’t think that we had a shot at the pole. Our car has been good. I’m excited about the race. With the way that we ran last night, I know that our cars are fast.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (46.385 seconds/194.028 mph) was third fastest, with Marcos Ambrose (46.392 seconds/193.999mph) fourth and Casey Mears (46.429 seconds/193.844 mph) fifth. Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne and Tony Stewart rounded out the 10 fastest drivers here today.
Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led team immediately turned their focus to Thursday’s 150-mile qualifying race. After Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout turned into a “crash fest,” it can be expected that the Penske Racing teams will again take the conservative approach.
“You don’t want to tear up a race car before the 500,” Dinger said. “I think it’s two things; if you have a chance to win the 500 with five laps to go, then you get after it. If it’s a struggle and you’re midpack, fifth to eight, then you try to play conservative and not wreck your car. It’s all about where you position yourself with three or four laps to go like we did last night.”
After a couple of days off, action returns to the “World Center of Speed” on Wednesday with practice sessions set for 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. till 4:00 p.m.
The first of Thursday’s (Feb. 23) “Gatorade Duels” 150-mile qualifying races gets the green flag at 2:00 p.m. ET. Live coverage of all the action will be provided by SPEED-TV and MRN Radio. The Sunday, Feb. 26 Daytona 500 has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. ET starting time here at Daytona International Speedway. FOX-TV, MRN Radio and Sirius-XM NASCAR Channel 90 will provide live coverage of all the action.
Credit - Penske Racing