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Edwards captures pole for Night Race

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 19, 2016 at 8:18 PM

BRISTOL — Carl Edwards led a parade of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in Friday qualifying for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

Edwards, in the No. 19 Toyota, led a 1-2-3 sweep of Gibbs drivers with a lap at 14.602 seconds and 131.407 mph.

Denny Hamlin was second-fastest at 14.625 seconds, 131.200 mph, and Kyle Busch was third at 14.655 — 130.931 mph.

For Edwards, it was his fifth pole of the season, his second straight in the series and the 21st of his career. He was quick to credit his teammates for the blistering lap.

“If it wasn’t for my teammates, we wouldn’t have come up with that setup,” he said. “We didn’t have a mock qualifying run. We didn’t even practice qualifying or anything. We made adjustments from the information from our teammates, looking at their notes.”

The fast time gave Edwards a sweep of Bristol poles for the season. He now will go for a season sweep of the races after his win in the Food City 500 in April.

“The outlook is good. The car is very fast,” Edwards said. “Our team just responds to anything thrown at us. (Crew chief) Dave Rogers isn’t afraid to make changes. We will see if we can finish this deal tomorrow night and be talking about how we were able to do it in the race.”

Hamlin broke his own track record in first round of qualifying with a lap of 131.668 mph. He was also fastest in the second qualifying session, but said it took him too long to come up to speed in the final session.

“We did all we could,” Hamlin said. “I can’t believe we’ve qualified as good as we have this year and not gotten a pole. Still, it was a great effort by our team.”

Hamlin, winner of the series’ most recent race at Watkins Glen, New York, added that being able to hold on to the track record held some significance.

“It’s some consolation,” Hamlin said. “We haven’t gotten a pole this year and we want to get that done. But, I was definitely mindful of the track record.”

Ryan Blaney, driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, qualified fourth. The final Gibbs entry with Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota was fifth.

Chase Elliott, driving a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, qualified sixth. Martin Truex Jr. in a Toyota, A.J. Allmendinger in a Chevrolet and a pair of Team Penske Ford drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, rounded out the top 10.

Jeff Gordon, substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet, qualified 11th.

“When we started qualifying, the car was really good,” Gordon said. “I was disappointed we weren’t better than 11th on the final round. Qualifying has not been the strong suit for me in this car, but I love this track.”

Other notables included six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in 16th and Knoxville driver Trevor Bayne in 22nd.

Tony Stewart, making his final Bristol start, was eliminated in the first round of qualifying. The three-time NASCAR champion ran a lap at 127.835 mph to qualify 27th.

Danica Patrick, a teammate of Stewart, was 29th fastest with her best lap at 127.648 mph.

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