DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Ford found some extra power at one of NASCAR's fastest tracks — enough to put Greg Biffle on the pole for the first time in almost four years. Biffle led a Ford contingent to a strong showing in qualifying for Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway to earn the top starting spot.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Ford found some extra power at one of NASCAR's fastest tracks — enough to put Greg Biffle on the pole for the first time in almost four years.
Biffle led a Ford contingent to a strong showing in qualifying for Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway to earn the top starting spot.
He was one of seven Ford drivers to qualify in the top 14 at a track where Toyota used teamwork to win the Daytona 500 in February.
Biffle was the last car to make a lap in Friday night's qualifying session and earned the top starting spot with a speed of 192.995 mph in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
It is Biffle's first pole since Charlotte in October 2012, a streak of 130 races, and he credited engine builder Doug Yates.
"I am not going to discredit winning a pole but we would sure like to win an open race track," Biffle said. "We have been really close with a couple outside front row starts and just haven't quite gotten there. It does feel good for our team though."
Biffle bumped Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch from the top of the leaderboard. Edwards' lap of 192.748 was good enough for second, while Busch dropped to third with a lap at 192.336.
Joe Gibbs Racing had to scramble to ready Busch's backup car for qualifying after Busch destroyed his Toyota during a crash in Friday morning's practice session.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified fourth to give Roush two drivers in the top four.
"It is a good day for the Roush Fenway Fords," Stenhouse said. "The guys have been bringing really good cars to the speedways, really fast cars. It is really cool that Greg got it for our organization. It shows we are putting a lot of hard work in and it is starting to pay off at every race track."
Brad Keselowski qualified fifth in a Team Penske Ford, while teammate Joey Logano was 11th and Ryan Blaney was 12th for The Wood Brothers. Roush driver Trevor Bayne was 13th and Aric Almirola 14th for Richard Petty Motorsports. All the Fords use engines built by Doug Yates.
"I am really happy to see a Ford on the pole with Greg Biffle and I think we will be ready to race," Keselowski said. "It makes you feel really good to see all those Ford teammates up there in the front of the field."
The Ford drivers will have to work together to fend off the Toyota brigade that ganged up on the field to win the Daytona 500. JGR's four drivers worked with Martin Truex Jr. to form a juggernaut that led to a Denny Hamlin win as Toyota drivers took four of the top five spots.
Edwards expected a similar strategy on Saturday night.
"That worked really well, I don't know that it will ever work that well again," Edwards said.
"I assume we'll just try to do the same thing which was basically work together if we can and I watched a little bit of the race the other day and everything just worked out perfectly. If we can do that again, it would be great. We really have a good group of cars and we have a great group of teammates so that would be good."
Austin Dillon, who was involved in a horrible accident on the last lap of this race last year in which his car went airborne into the fence, qualified sixth as the fastest Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson was seventh and the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to advance to the second round of qualifying. Hendrick drivers had won six consecutive poles on restrictor plate tracks dating to the 2015 Daytona 500.
Hamlin was ninth and Kurt Busch 10th.
Truex, who lost in a photo finish to Hamlin in the 500, was 15th. Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 16th.
Tony Stewart, who snapped an 84-race winless streak last week on the road course at Sonoma, qualified 19th.
Other notes from Friday at Daytona:
AVERAGE EARNHARDT: He didn't get the starting spot he hoped for, but Earnhardt still believes he has a decent shot to get his first win of the season on Saturday night.
"It's going to be slick in the race and handling is going to be real important," Earnhardt said. "I'm more concerned really with the car driving good. Might not be the fastest car out there, that's not the car that is going to win the race. I think the guy that's got the best handling package. This place is going to be pretty slick."
BUSCH'S BACKUP: JGR did a good job getting Busch a strong car after he crashed his primary in Friday's practice. He had harsh words for Goodyear after the accident, which was caused by a cut tire.
Busch complained he didn't have much confidence in Goodyear — teammate Edwards also had a tire issue in the morning — but he had softened his stance by the end of the day.
"From my vantage point we've had a lot of tire issues this year. That's probably four, five or six tires that we've blown this year," Busch said. "We also did the tire test at Kentucky and didn't necessarily have the best of results, I felt like. That's where the frustration probably stemmed from and came from.
"Goodyear probably didn't deserve what they got from me earlier today, but that's just from earlier today."
SLOW ELLIOTT: Chase Elliott opened the year with the pole for the Daytona 500, then duplicated the fete at Talladega Superspeedway.
He had no shot at making it three consecutive poles at plate tracks and will start 24th on Saturday.
"It was not as good as we've been in the last couple of plate races, but, hey, we'll try to focus on the race," Elliott said. "I'm looking forward to the race and just trying to get going and hopefully not make the same mistake I made here in February."
SMITH'S PROBLEM: Regan Smith had a problem on his qualifying attempt and wasn't able to complete a timed lap. He'll start 40th.
"I crossed the start/finish line taking the green flag, and something happened that changed the pitch and it seemed like I lost a little bit of power," he said. "Just to be safe, killed the motor and got it back (to the garage) to see what is wrong with it. If there is a silver lining with this whole thing, at Daytona you can start toward the back and still make time and be OK."
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