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.



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