Austin Dillon claimed the pole for the Daytona 500 during Sunday’s qualifying session. The driver of he No. 3 Chevrolet SS posted the fastest lap around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona 500 will be the first time since the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001 that the No. 3 has raced at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level.
“I feel like our engines have been really good since we’ve been here (at Daytona). … I just had to get my shifts. And I knew that hopefully I could hold the wheel straight for two laps,” Dillon told Fox after his lap.
Drivers took two laps around the track aiming for the top spot. The top two speeds have ensured themselves a spot on the front row while the rest of the field will be set by Thursday’s Budweiser Duels. Martin Truex Jr. will start outside Dillon.
Dillon won the 2013 Nationwide Series title and will be competing in the Sprint Cup series full-time this season under Richard Childress Racing.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Austin. We wanted to come down here and put on a good show with the 3,” Childress told Fox.
The return of the No. 3 has left the NASCAR fan base divided, as many fans would rather of seen the No. 3 retired, instead of returning to the Sprint Cup this season. On the other hand, many other fans believe the number being active on the track helps to honor Earnhardt Sr.’s legacy.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. held the provisional pole until Greg Biffle notched a quicker lap late into qualifying. When Dillon ran his lap and claimed the pole from Biffle, the crowd cheered.
Last years pole sitter Danica Patrick qualified 25th. Jimmie Johnson was last year’s Daytona 500 winner.