Going into arguably the most important race of his professional driving career, Carl Edwards couldn't have got a better boost or sent out a clearer message, when he sped to pole position for the Ford 400 season finale by 0.116s over Martin Truex Jr.
By contrast, his 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup title rival Tony Stewart will be starting from 15th position at Homestead-Miami Speedway, an oval that has always been a happy hunting ground for Ford drivers - and for Carl Edwards in particular.
"It is great to be on the pole," said Edwards after qualifying was over. "Things are good. Today went really well. I felt like our car was very fast in practice in race trim; I wasn't really sure what to expect in qualifying trim, but that was a very pleasant surprise to run that well ... It looked like there were a lot of fast cars in practice - it didn't look like we were head and shoulders better than anyone else."
But as delighted as he was to draw first blood in the title decider, Edwards was all too aware that this was just the start of a long battle to come on Sunday afternoon.
"I do think that of all the tracks it would be nice to have a big advantage in qualifying at some of them, but this one you can pass at, so if there are faster race cars out there, they'll be able to make it through the field," he said, far from writing off Stewart's prospects of coming right back through the field from 15th place.
"The biggest thing [about taking pole] is that pit stall selection. That's gonna be a big help the whole race. That's something that's hard to put a value on," he said, adding: "That truly is just one lap, though ... this doesn't dampen the amount of effort we're gonna go out and put forth. We still have to go out and race this race."
Equally, Tony Stewart wasn't about to let 15th place - his lowest qualifying position in the last five races - get him down. “Well, the qualifying deal isn't how our race is going to play out," he stressed. "This is one lap of how many hundred miles we've got to go. I don't know where we're going to end up here, but it looks like we're going to be solid. That's the main thing.
"We didn't have a pole-winning car today," he admitted, but he was confident that his #14 Office Depot Chevrolet car "is pretty good in race trim. I'm glad we spent more time working on race trim than qualifying trim. So, we'll see how it plays out ... We'll know in 399 miles. I'll let you know after that.”
Pointing out that poles do not correlate with wins - "I've won 13 poles in 13 years, and I've won  races now, proving that you don't have to do it from the pole" - Stewart added "don't start etching his name on the trophy yet."