CONCORD, N.C.—Greg Biffle was cackling with laughter when he crossed the finish line Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway — and it wasn’t just because he set a track record in qualifying for Sunday’s Bank of America 500.
Biffle was enjoying the thrill of a pole-winning lap during which he said he scared himself more than once. Touring the 1.5-mile speedway in 27.877 seconds (193.708 mph), Biffle broke Elliott Sadler’s Oct. 13, 2005 mark of 27.948 seconds (193.216 mph).
The Coors Light pole award was Biffle’s third of the season, his first at Charlotte and the 12th of his career. He edged Mark Martin (193.361 mph) and Ryan Newman (193.251 mph) for the top starting spot, as all three drivers bettered the previous record.
“I was super excited about that lap, because I drove it farther into Turn 1 than I thought would work,” Biffle said. “It hooked the bottom and stuck, and it was incredible . . . When (crew chief Matt Puccia) told me the lap time—I was sitting in my motor home earlier watching the broadcast—and I heard ’em say what the track record was.
“So I knew at that point it was a track record, so I was pretty excited about it. And I knew it was going to take a lot to beat it. These cars won’t go much faster than that, it was a perfect lap, and I hit all my marks just right on the button.”
Clint Bowyer (193.043 mph) qualified fourth, followed by five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jimmie Johnson (192.995 mph). Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne will start the fifth race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from positions six through 10, respectively.
Regan Smith, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr., qualified 26th for his first trip in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Earnhardt announced Thursday that he would be out of the car for at least two weeks because of a concussion.
Currently ninth in the Chase standings, 49 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, Biffle said his pole run was the shot in the arm his team needed.
“Oh, man, it feels so good,” Biffle said. “We’ve been working so hard, and we’ve kind of been down in the dumps a little bit, because we haven’t started out this Chase as strong as we’ve been all season . . . We’ve been to six race tracks in the last two weeks, between testing and everything we’ve been doing and racing.
“We got home last night from Texas, learned a little bit. It helped us here tonight, I think.”
Keselowski, who leads second-place Johnson by 14 points in the Chase standings, qualified 20th.
Martin was aware immediately that, on a cool night, his car had picked up speed from practice earlier in the day.
“I went down into Turn 1, and I was just going so fast,” Martin said. “Everything was dragging, scraping, making noises, smoking, and I smelled rubber, so I said, ‘Man, we are rolling.'”
Joe Nemechek, Josh Wise, Scott Riggs and Cole Whitt failed to make the 43-car field.