Carl Edwards will start next Sunday's Daytona 500 from pole position, and his Roush Fenway Racing team mate Greg Biffle will start alongside him on the front row, after they set the fastest times in the weekend's qualifying session at Daytona International Speedway.

"I didn't really consider the pole as something that was a possibility, so this is huge," said a delighted Edwards, who achieved a time of 46.216s (194.738mph) on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. "It's neat to come down here and to be so fast and to really have fun qualifying here."

"We're so excited to have two of our cars on the front row," agreed Biffle, who had been favourite for a strong qualifying after topping both the practice sessions on Saturday but missed out on pole to his team mate by 0.155s. "A team effort all around."

It's the first time that Edwards will start the Daytona 500 from pole, and the first time that team owner Jack Roush has locked out the front row of the grid for the Great American Race. However, there's a note of caution from history: the last time the polesitter went on to win the race was back in 2000, when Dale Jarrett managed it.

Under Speedweeks' uniquely convoluted qualifying process, the remaining positions for the starting grid of the race are yet to be finalised. Today's qualifying session only set the front row, and the rest of the Daytona 500 grid will in fact be set by the results of Thursday evening's Gatorade Duel races.

However, today's qualifying did also decide the first four cars guaranteed a place on the starting grid that were not already locked in by 2011 car owner points. Trevor Bayne was the highest-placed non-guaranteed driver with the ninth fastest time of the day of 46.484s (193.615mph) and will now definitely make the start of the Daytona 500.

"This Wood Brothers team worked so hard this off-season to find us some speed and it showed today," said last year's shock race winner, who turned 21 today. "To be able to know today we're in the race is a load off everyone's mind and now we can concentrate on getting our car race ready for next Sunday."

Tony Raines and David Stremme are also locked in, as is Terry Labonte thanks to a champion's provisional.

"I can't tell you how huge this is for us to get into the 500," said Stremme, running for the small-scale Inception Motorsports team at Daytona. "We have like eight full-time crew members!"

But Kenny Wallace, Dave Blaney, Michael Waltrip, Joe Nenechek, Bill Elliott, Mike Wallace, Robert Richardson Jr., Robby Gordon and JJ Yeley will still have to win places in the Daytona 500 depending on their performances in Thursday's Gatorade Duel races.

The two groups for the Duels are set according to today's times: Carl Edwards will be starting alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the first group, while the second group will see Greg Biffle and Casey Mears lead the field to the green flag.

However, Clint Bowyer will be starting his Duel from the rear of the field after the #15 failed a ride height inspection once qualifying was complete and his time was subsequently deleted. No other cars failed inspection.

Michael Waltrip Racing's director of competition Scott Mille said the team was surprised by the finding. "I don't know if we got something stuck in the bleed hole in the shock, but the front just didn't come back up," he said. "We'll go over there and get to the bottom of it and see what happened."

Full times and positions from qualifying.