DAVID GILLILAND/#38 M&M's has the NASCAR Nextel Cup pole position for the 2007 Daytona 500. His lap of 48.304 secs, 186.320 mph in the Bud Pole Qualifying for the 49th Running of the Daytona 500 was the twenty-sixth time set as the field of 61 drivers lined up to take their two-lap run around the 2.5-mile tri-oval track.
Gilliland's time wasn't as fast as the 2006 pole lap of 47.581/189.151 mph set by JEFF BURTON/Chevrolet, but wind could have been a factor. The wind came up early on and often the flag was seen flight straight out, compared to its limp status Saturday. Overall speeds Sunday were down from Saturday. Twenty-four qualifiers were in the 48 seconds range, while thirty-five were in that range Saturday afternoon. The overall record lap of 210.364 mph set in 1987 is still held by BILL ELLIOT/Ford.
Gilliland's Richard Yates Racing team-mate, RICKY RUDD/#88 Snickers Ford, was second fastest with 48.489/185.609 mph, making it a chocolate front row. Rudd had been fastest in the two Saturday practices, with a 48.190/186.761 mph Saturday afternoon. He is coming out of a short hiatus from racing to return full time to Cup racing.
Third fastest Sunday afternoon was DAVID STREMME/#40 Coors Light Dodge with a lap of 48.521/185.487 mph. Afterwards he said "It was good. The guys worked hard in the shop. They did a really good job. The one thing is that the new Dodge nose has helped us out and it's just an all around effort from everybody."
Stremme's Chip Ganassi teammate, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA of Colombia was the Top Rookie, in fourth place. Montoya ran 48.560/185.338 mph in #42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge. Montoya said "I think it is more about the car. The interesting thing to see is how it's going to be in the draft and how is the car going to handle. Yes, it is fast so far. We are probably going to finish in the top 5, but we will see. The 150s are going to be a good lesson for me to learn a lot for the 500. That is where a rookie comes in running in the packs and know where to put the car." JPM ran the last race of the 2006 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway,
Rookie DAVID RAGAN/#6 AAA Ford was fifth, in the Roush car replacing MARK MARTIN, who is no longer running a full Cup season. Ragan said "I don't really have a lot of time to think about what's to come. We just have to focus on the next race and the next task at hand and, so far, it's really been fun. Everyone at AAA and Ford and Roush Racing has put together an excellent team here. We're just glad to be here. We've got a great race car and we're looking forward to the 150s on Thursday.”
Martin, running #01 US Army Chevrolet in the 500, was thirty-fifth fastest, but smiling ear to ear about his new party-time driving role combined with mentoring development drivers. His words - "I'd take my Budweiser Shootout car and start dead last in the 500 and be happy and never turn another lap between now and then. Because all this other stuff in between is just filler. The 500 is all I care about and I had a great-handling car."
A very relieved BORIS SAID/#60 Sobe-No Fear Ford qualified sixth, with a lap of 48.593/185.212 mph, and is assured of a starting position in next Sunday's Daytona 500. On the radio coming back to the pits, he told FRANK STODDARD, his crew chief, "It's over. I can eat now." Said had been nervous for days about having to qualify on time. Afterwards he said "It's like losing two cinderblocks from my shoulders. To be in the show is just straight. I can't believe the day is over. It took a few years off me today." Said added that "three of us are happy and twenty-five have to sweat it all week."
NASCAR has a complicated Daytona 500 Qualifying System, which takes a middle school math major or a cartoon to explain. Thirty-five teams have guaranteed starting positions all season based on their 2006 Owner Points standings. Three of Sunday's qualifiers 'made the cut' and won't have to sweat their finish in the Dual 150's, officially called the Gatorade Duel at Daytona Qualifying Races, held next Thursday. All sixty-one entries are entitled to run the Duals, with the field divided in half. Drivers who qualified in even-numbered positions will run the first race, and drivers with odd-number qualifying times will run in the second race.