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Rookie Dillon wins historic Daytona 500 pole

Austin Dillon has clinched pole position for the opening race of his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series, and in a historic return for the #3.
Just having one of this year's rookie class of drivers succeed in claiming pole position for the Daytona 500 would ordinarily have been a big enough story. But in this case, that achievement was somewhat eclipsed by the identity of the car that he was driving.

The black #3 is firmly linked in people's minds with its most famous driver, Dale Earnhardt, who died at the wheel of the car 13 years ago while competing in this very event.

Richard Childress has now made the somewhat controversial decision to finally bring the car number out of retirement for this year's Sprint Cup Series championship, placing it in the hands of his grandson Austin Dillon for the 23-year-old's maiden year of full-time Cup competition.

Dillon - who has already won championships in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide in 2011 and 2013 respectively - has rewarded Childress' faith by immediately landing pole position for the inaugural race of 2014 with a lap of 45.914s (196.019mph.)

"I know this is just qualifying, but it's great for [Richard Childress Racing]," said Dillon after sealing his first pole position for a Cup race. "You never know the next time you'll be standing in this position again, so it's awesome.

"I just want to thank our family back home at RCR. They've done such a good job: fab shop, engine shop, everybody, my guys," he added. "It's all them. I hoped I didn't mess it up. We knew we had a fast car, and we brought it back, so it's good."

It was an impressive performance all round for RCR, which had dominated Saturday's practice session resulting in new signing Ryan Newman setting the fifth fastest time on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway on Sunday afternoon, and the team's other full-time driver Paul Menard also finishing in the top ten.

It was also a notable success for RCR's engine providers Earnhardt Childress Racing, whose Chevrolet unit also powered Martin Truex Jr. to second place alongside Dillon on the front row of the grid after running just 0.039s shy of the pole lap.

It's the second time Truex will have started from the front row of the Daytona 500, as he also won the pole in 2009. Truex will be making his first Cup race appearance for new team Furniture Row Racing, following his exit from Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of 2013 as a result of the team's involvement in the Richmond 'race rigging' scandal in September.

The Daytona 500 is the only race in 2014 that is retaining individual single lap time trials as a part of its qualifying procedure.

However, only Dillon and Truex are currently assured of their starting positions as a result of Sunday's qualifying session. In the case of the other drivers, Sunday's session merely sets their starting position for Thursday's night's two Duel races, the outcome of which will determine their actual starting positions for the Daytona 500 itself.

Three drivers who already know they will be starting from the back of the grid next weekend are Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Bobby Labonte as a result of their suffering engine blowouts in practice on Saturday.

Although nominally locked in on the front row, Dillon and Truex Jr. could even yet suffer the same fate of being sent to the back of the grid before the start of the race if they were to suffer blowups of their own or other practice damage in the week leading up the race, if it were to result in taking to a backup car.

See full qualifying times.



Related Pictures

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Crew members push the #3 DOW Chevrolet, driven by Austin Dillon, through the garage area during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, stands in the garage area after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, qualifies for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, poses for a photo with the Coors Light pole award and Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton ready for racing at Daytona International Speedway on 14 January 2014. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton in action at Daytona International Speedway on 14 January 2014. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
The #11 FedEx Freight Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick in the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Daytona 500 Honorary Starter, actor Gary Sinise, waves the green flag to start the Daytona 500 as Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 DOW Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, sits facing backwards in his pit box after an incident on pit road during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Air Titan track driers run during a rain delay in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Three-wide racing with Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota; Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet; and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota; leading the pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Michael Annett, driver of the #7 Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers Chevrolet, spins into Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Kahne was issued a penalty for too fast on pit row. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, races to the chequered flag to win the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with the the Harley J. Earl trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, February 23, 2014, winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

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draml

February 17, 2014 8:14 AM
Last Edited 62 days ago

He's absolutely, definitely won pole and that's what the record books will say come what may. But if he crashes in practice in the meantime so that he needs to take to the backup car he could still be sent to the back during the formation laps before the race - exactly that happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2011. Yeah, it's confusing. But that's the NASCAR rules for you!

theeagle

February 17, 2014 1:53 AM

Im a bit confused. Why do Crashnet say Dillion is on pole if he could yet have a blow up during the week and end up at the back of the grid? In this sense he is therefore not on pole for the 500.



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