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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)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Sponge Bob Square Pants Ford, wreck during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Earnhardt, Jr. is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 1, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates with champagne and crew chief Tony Gibson in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, wins, causing his crew to celebrate Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burn-out Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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