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Biffle sets new record to claim Charlotte pole

Biffle's team mate Matt Kenseth will also start in the top ten, after claiming seventh place in qualifying. Other Chase contenders making top ten starts this weekend are Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson (fifth) and Kasey Kahne (tenth) while the third member of the Hendrick squad - four-time champion Jeff Gordon - will start from just outside in 13th.

The final member of the team, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will be missing altogether from this week's race. Earnhardt admitted on Thursday that he had suffered a concussion during last weekend's massive last-lap wreck that ended up catching out 25 cars, and has been told by medical staff that he needs to take two races off after complaining of headaches.

Earnhardt's seat in the #88 will be taken by Regan Smith, who has been racing for Furniture Row Racing this season but who got ousted from the seat when the team signed up Kurt Busch to race for them in 2013.

"It's an exciting opportunity for me," admitted Smith. "I hate the circumstances around it. Obviously, Dale's safety and getting him healthy are the most important things right now. With that said, it's a great opportunity for me to hop in the race car."

Smith only found out that he was to be offered the stand-in role for Charlotte and Kansas at 7am on Thursday morning and went on to qualify the #88 in 26th position in the afternoon, but he denied that filling in for the most popular and iconic driver in the series added any undue pressure.

"There's pressure every time you sit in a race race and drive," he insisted. "It doesn't matter what car it is. Every driver in this garage feels the same pressure every week. I'm going to put the same pressure on myself this weekend that I did last week and as I did two years ago."

Earnhardt himself says that he wasn't going to be leaning over Smiths's shoulder offering advice over the weekend. "Regan doesn't need any tutoring or anything like that," he said, adding that he wouldn't even stay at the speedway for the race in order that he didn't become a distraction. "He's going to do a great job. I'm excited for his opportunity."

Smith had been due to race this weekend in the Phoenix Racing #51 car - essentially completing a straight swap with Kurt Busch. Rick Hendrick had needed to call the owner of Phoenix Racing, James Finch, to get Smith released from that commitment in order to put him into the #88 instead.

"[Regan]'s a good friend of Dale's," said Hendrick. "Dale likes him, we're familiar with him. We knew he was going to be in James' car, so it just seemed to fit." Hendrick added that the team had already been looking at offering Smith a seat with them in the Nationwide Series next year, if he wasn't able to pick up a more suitable berth at Cup level.

Losing Smith left Finch in a hole with regard to getting a driver to fill in at the team in the #51 Phoenix Racing car. Fortunately, an available driver had presented himself to the team just a few days ago at Talladega looking for any racing vacancies - one AJ Allmendinger, late of Penske Racing until he was fired following a positive result in a random drugs test over the summer.




Related Pictures

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The helmet of AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet, sits atop his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 11 in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, is interviewed on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/IDG Ford, poses with the pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, burn out as Crafton celebrates winning the series championship and Wallace celebrates winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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