DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Carl Edwards is second no more.
Just three months removed from finishing as runner-up to Tony Stewart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship after a last-lap duel in the season-ending race, Edwards rocketed to the top of the charts at Daytona International Speedway and won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on FOX).
The 32-year-old ran a fast lap of 194.738 mph to edge teammate Greg Biffle, who was the pre-qualifying favorite to win the pole after leading the two practice sessions Saturday afternoon.
Sunday's qualifying session serves only to lock in the front row for the Daytona 500, with the rest of the starting lineup set after Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races.
That said, Sunday helped to qualify the majority of the field for a variety of factors. Teams that finished in the top 35 in owner points last year have guaranteed spots in next Sunday's race, as well as the top three "Go or Go homers" on the speed charts - drivers whose teams do not have locked in spots.
Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines, and David Stremme were the fastest of those not locked in, so they have secured a spot in the race. Terry Labonte earned the past champion's provisional and locked into the field as well. Where they start will be determined by Thursday's results.
The drama wasn't constrained to just the speed charts.
Clint Bowyer's car failed post-qualifying inspection. It is the second time a car has failed NASCAR inspection at Daytona after Jimmie Johnson's car did not pass opening-day inspection on Friday.