Knockout qualifying came to Daytona International Speedway on Friday but this fight was stopped early, waved off due to rain. The scheduled three rounds of qualifying were reduced to one, with David Gilliland the beneficiary – and the pole winner for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola.
NASCAR’s new multi-car qualifying format, introduced this season (but not used at DIS for February’s Daytona 500 due to “The Great American Race’s” unique qualifying approach), heightened the high-banks drama … until the rains came on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Qualifying began with a 25-minute Round One for all 44 cars entered; 24 cars then advanced to a 10-minute Round 2 which never took place. The format would’ve then advanced 12 cars to Round 3, a five-minute sprint for the pole.
Gilliland, driving the No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, led Round One with a fast lap of 199.322 mph. And while he was considered somewhat lucky Friday, it should not be overlooked that when it comes to high-speed restrictor-plate qualifying, he’s good. This marks his second Daytona pole; his first came in the 2007 DAYTONA 500. He has one other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole, at 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in October 2006. Friday’s effort also earns him a spot in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited At Daytona.
Gilliland acknowledged having extra confidence at the biggest tracks on the schedule, saying the Coke Zero 400 is “something we circled on the calendar at the start of the year. And restrictor plate racing … it’s the great equalizer and we feel like we have a 100-percent chance, as good as anybody, of winning Saturday night.”
Reed Sorensen qualified second (199.221) in the No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet. Qualifying third was Landon Cassill (199.194) in the No. 40 Newtown Building Supplies Chevrolet. The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte (198.970) will start fourth in the No. 33 Thunder Coal Chevrolet, while reigning and six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson (198.790) will start fifth in the No. 48 Love’s Patriotic Chevrolet.
Tickets to the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
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