Daytona Beach, FL – Carl Edwards won Sunday's time trials for the Daytona 500 while his teammate, Greg Biffle, secured the outside pole to give Roush Fenway Racing and Ford the front starting row for the February 26 race at Daytona International Speedway.
Edwards benefited from weather conditions when he made his qualifying attempt early in the session. He was the fifth driver in the field of 49 to make his run. The winds at Daytona intensified during the session and therefore lowered speeds on the cars. Gusts reached as high as 40 m.p.h.
Edwards turned a lap at 194.738 m.p.h. around the high-banked 2.5-mile superspeedway for his first Daytona 500 pole in his eighth attempt. He also notched his 11th career pole in the Sprint Cup Series.
"This is amazing," Edwards said. "These Ford Fusions are the two fastest cars here at Daytona...These are the best race cars that we've ever had at Daytona. It's cool. Coming down here, I didn't really consider the pole as something that was a possibility, so it's huge."
The qualifying order for the Daytona 500 was determined in a random draw. The order for all other qualifying sessions is determined by overall practice speeds for each event.
Biffle, the ninth driver in the order, posted a lap at 194.087 m.p.h. Biffle was the fastest in each of Saturday's two practice sessions.
"[The team] has worked so hard on these race cars, and I feel bad for [crew chief] Matt [Puccia]," Biffle said. "Matt has put in a tremendous amount of time on this car to get us on the front row. We missed the pole by just a little bit."
Biffle won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2004.
While Edwards and Biffle have secured the front row for the Daytona 500, the remaining 43-car field for the 54th running of NASCAR's most prestigious race of the season will be determined in Thursday's Gatorade Duel twin 150-mile qualifying races.
The top-35 in last year's owner points are guaranteed a starting position in the Daytona 500. Three drivers outside the top-35 -- Bayne, Tony Raines and David Stremme -- have also locked down a starting spot in the race based on their qualifying speeds. Terry Labonte has at least earned the champion's provisional spot.
"I woke up this morning and came outside, and the wind was just blowing straight down the backstretch," Bayne said. "I was thinking, 'Man, I wish I could go out early.' It was either our draw or the wind, but you can't change any one of those. I think the guys gave me the best race car that they could have possibly given me."
Bayne, the driver of the No.21 Ford for the Wood Brothers, turned 21 years old on Sunday. He is the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500.
"It's good to be 21, driving the 21," he quipped.
Danica Patrick, making her Sprint Cup debut at Daytona, finished 29th with a lap at 191.738 m.p.h. During her two-lap run, Patrick had steam emerge from the front hood of her No.7 Chevrolet.
"It was a nice, smooth line up top, and I tried to let it free up out of the corners on the bottom, watching some video stuff from [Saturday]," she said. "Everything felt fine. It got a little hot in the water. I had some water blowing out of the car."
Patrick already has a starting spot secured in the 500-mile race based on the top-35 in points. She is expected to become the third female to compete in the Daytona 500, joining Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson.
"It's nice to be fast, but anything can happen on any given Sunday," Patrick added. "So the important thing is that the car doesn't have any dents or get into any accidents in the Duels, and that we have a good car for [the Daytona 500]."
Clint Bowyer posted the 22nd fastest lap, but his time was disallowed after his No.15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota failed post-qualifying inspection. NASCAR officials discovered the left front of his car was too low. Bowyer will have to start from the rear of the field in the second Duel.
Edwards crew chief, Bob Osborne, was not at Daytona for this weekend's activities (Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 qualifying) due to the passing of his father. Chip Bolin, the head engineer for Roush Fenway, served as interim crew chief. Osborne is expected to return to Daytona later this week for the Gatorade Duels and the Daytona 500.