Kwasniewski wins pole for Nationwide race at Daytona
Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Eighteen-year-old Dylan Kwasniewski won the pole for Saturday's 300-mile Nationwide Series season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, despite qualifying being shortened due to rain.
Kwasniewski, the 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, became the first rookie to win a pole in his first Nationwide start since Scott Speed did it in 2009 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He also became the youngest driver to win a Nationwide pole at Daytona.
Friday's Nationwide qualifying at Daytona marked the first time NASCAR used its knockout-style of qualifying for all three of its national series. The start of the session was delayed after a shower moved over the area. With six minutes remaining in the opening 25-minute round, rain began falling on the 2.5-mile track again.
Kwasniewski turned in the fastest lap at 192.078 mph, while his Turner Scott Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick were second and third quickest, respectively, when NASCAR had to stop the first segment and then eventually call off the remaining two rounds in qualifying. All three drivers were running in the same pack when they posted their top laps.
"Danica did a fantastic job of leading us through the pack and getting us clean through there," Kwasniewski said. "I just had to hang on to the back. I knew that we had great cars. Turner Scott Motorsports did a great job of getting us ready for this.
"The qualifying was definitely a change, and I liked it a lot. I think it made for a lot of excitement for the fans, definitely for me. I was sitting there not knowing if I wanted it to rain or clear up."
Larson's lap was clocked at 192.074 mph, which was only 0.001 seconds behind Kwasniewski. Patrick turned a lap at 192.033 mph. Larson is a rookie in the Sprint Cup Series this year, while Patrick is in her second full season in NASCAR's top racing circuit.
The fastest 24 cars in the first round were to advance into the second segment, which lasts 10 minutes. The final round, just 5 minutes in length, determines positions 1-12 in the starting field for a race.
"The new qualifying was really wild, especially since it was on a superspeedway," Larson said.
Some drivers had favorable opinions about the new qualifying format, while others, like Patrick, did not.
"I think there are going to be sometimes that it's going to be a total disaster, like when we go to short tracks," Patrick said. "I just can't imagine what it's going to be like. There was plenty of room, and people could go wherever. There were many lanes. It's all about momentum. But when you go to places like Bristol, Martinsville, and shoot, even Phoenix, it's just going to be a really big challenge."
Kyle Busch qualified fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler and Matt Kenseth. Jamie Dick, Jeff Green, Johnny Sauter and David Starr completed the top-10.
David Ragan, Tanner Berryhill, Chris Buescher, Willie Allen, Matt Carter, Matt DiBenedetto, Carl Long, Carlos Contreras and Clay Greenfield failed to make the starting field for the Nationwide race at Daytona after they finished the lowest in qualifying.