Carl Edwards pulled off a season sweep of road course poles Saturday tackling the Watkins Glen International course with a lap of 1:09.689 seconds, 126.562 miles per hour. The pole was the 20th of his career, the fourth of the season, and his second at Watkins Glen, the last coming in 2010.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver who cut his teeth on slick dirt tracks, took advantage of a track that had the rubber washed off due to an early morning rain. That green track, combined with new pavement was even slicker than it has been, and Edwards took full advantage putting down his pole winning lap with under two minutes to go in the final two minutes of the second of two knockout qualifying rounds.
“I think tomorrow is going to be a little bit of an adventure,” Edwards said. “The new pavement nobody knows how that’s going to go along deep into the runs with tire build up. I think the braking zones are pretty tough and it’s going to be nice and warm. So, just got to stay upfront, can’t make any mistakes. I love road races. They’re so much fun. I got to talk to Boris Said who’s basically my road racing coach to start so that was cool today. Hopefully tonight get me some good rest and hopefully be very competitive tomorrow.”
The pole for Edwards came at the expense of anther dirt track alum, Kyle Larson. He held the pole for nearly six minutes after putting down his fast lap near the seven minute mark. Larson went back out in the final minutes in an attempt to retake the pole, but spun exiting the final corner. He was able to hold onto to second.
“I messed up so many corners,” Larson said. “I should have just bailed. But I tried to make it good (in Turns) 6 and 7; and just got into the last corner pretty hard there and got loose. I was hoping I wasn’t going to hit those barrels; but I was able to keep it going straight and keep it fired-up.”
Tony Stewart had another good qualifying session and will start third in his final Glen race as a full time driver; he’s followed by Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch rounding out the top five.
Denny Hamlin will roll off sixth, Joey Logano, who led the first round ,will start seventh followed by Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray in the top 10. Michael McDowell and Brad Keselowski will start 11th and 12th as the final 2 cars that transferred to the final round.
Among those not making it out of the first round were all four cars from Hendrick Motorsports, and Kevin Harvick. Martin Truex Jr. also failed to advance after his team elected to wait until the final moments of the first round to take lap. Truex was hung up momentarily behind the car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and lost just enough time to miss the cutoff, he will roll off 14th Sunday.
“There is nothing wrong with trying to do it in one run ,” an obviously frustrated Truex said. “if people on the race track were paying attention to what’s going on. You’ve got somebody that just pulled out of the pits and sees you coming literally I don’t understand what the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) was thinking. He was just leaving pit road and he wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why he would’ve done what he did except for the fact that he just wasn’t paying attention. It’s a shame.”
Paul Menard also had a memorable first round spinning in the inner loop and bringing out the red flag for a few minutes at the 15 minute mark of the 25 minutes. Menard will start 33rd. With only 40 entries, no one was sent home. The full lineup can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International Sunday will have live coverage will be on USA Network starting at 2:00 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 2:30 p.m. ET.