Denny Hamlin won pole position for the Brickyard 400 at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a lap of 49.244s (182.763mph) on the historic 2.5-mile circuit, and he was certainly feeling good with how things were looking heading into Sunday afternoon's race.
"If you put me out front on the last run, no one's going to get around me!" he said afterwards. "So it's all going to be about maintaining track position and maintaining the balance of your race car.
"All you can do is hope that you've got a fast enough car to be one of those two, where, if you do get set back, you can be one of the cars that can get back to the front," he added, already thinking ahead to race day strategy. "One thing about it is having the number one pit stall now. That's going to be an advantage on pit road," he added.
Carl Edwards was feeling pretty pleased with second place with a time 0.211s off Hamlin's pole run, and will be on the front row of the grid for the start of tomorrow's race. That's especially good given that this is his first track outing with new crew chief Chad Norris calling the shots after the decision by long-time colleague Bob Osborne to step down from the post on medical grounds.
"That was a really good lap for us, I am just proud of everyone for coming together and working together," said Edwards afterwards. "Chad Norris is as excited as anyone and all the guys on the team seem really upbeat and ready to move forward. I am real grateful for the timing of all this that we had the off weekend.
"I feel really good about it," added Edwards. "It has been great working with Chad. I think Bob is doing pretty well. He won't quite tell me exactly how he is doing. He keeps things pretty quiet. The biggest thing is we are all behind Bob 100-percent and hope he gets better and feels better."
Behind them on the second row of the grid, Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing tam mate Joey Logano will start form third place alongside Richard Petty Motorsports' Aric Almirola.
"I've blown up in practice here twice and had to start in the back, and I know it's really, really hard and it takes all day to get up there," recalled Logano of past years at the Brickyard. "Starting towards the front is going to be ... I think it's more important here than probably anywhere we go. It should help!"
"With this being my first time here, it's tough," said Almirola of his experience so far at Indy. "We only made one qualifying run toward the end of practice. We spent most of our time in race trim, just trying to get me some laps ... The most challenging thing is trying to get up to speed, trying to tell [crew chief] Mike Ford what I need to go faster."
After topping the earlier second practice session, Edwards' team mate Greg Biffle had to be satisfied with fifth place on the grid, starting alongside Jimmie Johnson.
"I have been good there all day long but my car just didn't get to the bottom and that just killed me there on that turn," he explained. "It was probably a couple tenths. I don't think I would have beat Denny but would maybe be second or third right now."
"We had a good slide off the exit there, but I have been happy with my race car since we unloaded," contributed Johnson. "It was a solid run for us. We were a little too loose to challenge for the pole, but a great lap. We have had a great day on track period. I feel really good about my KOBALT Tools Chevy for the race tomorrow. I would love to be a four-time winner here that's the goal."
That was certainly better than Kevin Harvick's thoughts about his own performance, having qualifid a distant 27th: "Not a good [qualifying] lap and overall it has been a terrible day," he posted on social media site Twitter after his run.
Trevor Bayne qualified the Wood Brothers #21 on speed into 18th place on the grid, and felt there was more to come.
"I think the car was on a little more than I was right there in qualifying," he said. "I am sure every driver on pit road thinks they could have done better and I am one of those drivers. You can't really see in turn one here and when you land you know if you drove hard enough of if you could have gone harder."
Not being locked-in on owner points had definitely played a part in how Bayne had approached qualifying: "When you are leaving pit road the last thought in your mind is that we have to make the show on time and aren't locked in and that causes you to leave more on the table than you want to," he admitted.
Reed Sorenson and Joe Nemechek failed to qualify for the race on speed. Initially, Mike Bill also missed making the 43-car grid, but post-qualifying inspection of Michael McDowell's car found that the #98 had too much nitrogen gas in the rear shock absorbers, causing McDowell to have his times eliminated. That means McDowell drops out of Sunday's race and Bliss is reinstated into the field.
Full qualifying and practice times