Toyota regained its muscle this afternoon when it finished in the top four in the opening round of qualifying. As the dust settled, Joe Gibbs Racing swept the front row, with Christopher Bell taking the pole position ahead of teammate Martin Truex Jr.
Bell turned in a lap of 180,928 mph in his second round, giving him a second place finish in his football career. The driver of the #20 Toyota Camry bolstered his efforts in round one with another strong exit in the final round of the day.
“That was all of my crew,” Bell said. “I am so grateful to be in the position that I am, driving a #20 Camry and we have a great team. This team is really big. Even from round one to round two I can say my rpm has been really big and it’s heading Right back. It was just too big and it’s going down the flat right away. I don’t know if wind was an advantage for me. It definitely didn’t hurt. It’s a pretty big statistic for a TRD to get a super fast plume.”
With Toyota’s strong qualifying results, Bale was asked if he thought they could stay ahead during tomorrow’s race. “That would definitely be the goal – trying to get together and keep our position on the track, but with the pit strategy and the pit courses – something will happen where you get mixed up and lose your position. I think team strategy has been a very important part of super sprints and all Toyotas will have to work together if We wanted to win this game.”
Truex has never won a race at breakneck speed in the start of his career 68. While assisting at the start, he will have to do without engineer Nick Burton, who was sent off as part of the team’s penalty for failing to inspect twice on Friday. The team also lost the choice of pitch for this race as part of a penalty kick.
Daniel Hemrich put in an amazing effort on Saturday and qualified for the No. 16 College Racing Chevrolet Championships third. The entire Daniel row will be 2 as Daniel Suarez starts fourth. Hendrik’s top driver Kyle Larson was in qualifying, and Kurt Busch led the way for 23XI Racing. The owner of that team, Denny Hamlin, qualified his No. 11 Camry right behind him in seventh place.
William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Tyler Riddick rounded out the rest of the top ten. Wallace grabbed his first cup win here last year, and he’s hoping to be back tomorrow. Wallace has had three consecutive first- and second-place finishes at breakneck speed, including his first cup win here last October. Only four drivers have scored four goals in a row: Cal Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt, Ernie Irvan and Dale Garrett.
Chevrolet has only had two wins at Talladega in the past 16 races here. Justin Hailey hopes to add to that, and he barely missed advancing to the final round. Tomorrow starts 11. Last weekend’s Bristol Dirt race winner Kyle Busch will start alongside him in 12th place. He was the only Toyota driver to miss the top ten during qualifying but the margin was thin.
Joey Logano and Austin Dillon will start behind in row 7 with Brad Keselowski in the top 15 starting. Keselowski has won Talladega six times in 26 career starts, including this race last season. Daytona was a bright spot for this year’s RFK race, driving the No.6-ranked Ford Mustang in the race for 67 laps. While it’s feast or famine here, the veteran driver is thirsting for victory.
Daytona 500 winner Austin Sendrick starts 18th and Ryan Blaney qualified 22nd, as the three Penske drivers struggled to find a qualifying speed. The race should be a different story, as they are expected to make their way to the front of the field. Penske has won eight of the last 13 races here.
While Larson and Byron were fast cars, their teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott did not. These two will start on the 27th and 28th tomorrow. The good news is that starting positions don’t matter much in Talladega and Daytona. The key to race day is to have a solid race preparation, which you can expect from Hendrick Motorsports.
While there is a pro-luck involved in being successful at breakout speeds, it does require a specific skill set that not every driver possesses. Starting at the front doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end there as only one driver has won out of the last six races in Talladega starting in the top four.
The 47th JTG Daugherty Ricky Stenhouse Jr failed the inspection twice and car boss Travis Young was fired. Chevrolet’s #77 Spire Motorsports has failed the pre-qualification check three times and driver Landon Cassel will have to do a pit dash at the earliest opportunity after the start of the race. The team was not allowed to qualify, the stall pick was lost, and car boss JR Norris was fired.
GEICO 500 coverage begins tomorrow at 3 PM ET on FOX.