Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned a front row starting position for the GEICO 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway with a second-place qualifying effort in the #88 Nationwide Chevy. Earnhardt Jr. navigated the 2.66-mile track with a final round lap of 190.780 mph. The run marked his third top 10 start of 2017 and his 16th in 34 races at Talladega Superspeedway. It is also his first front row start at Talladega in his 18-year Cup Series career. "The car was really fast today," said Earnhardt Jr. after the qualifying session. "That gives us good confidence in the speed of the car for Sunday."
POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT:
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., #88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS - Qualified 2nd
Q) DID YOU THINK YOU HAD THE LAP ON THAT FINAL RUN TO GET THE POLE?
Earnhardt Jr.: "Uh, it was a little more than a fraction he was about a quarter of a second faster, quite a bit. You know it was really close, obviously, in the first round and guys are going to pick up a little bit. They start us a little further down pit road, so everybody is going to run a little quicker and that is a pretty neat little trick to make sure everybody goes a little faster in the second round. But, you just don't know really what everybody's got. Guys are going to do little things with air pressure and so forth. We just didn't pick up as much as he did. Really impressive run by Stenhouse and his guys and we come close. We seem to come close at Daytona and Talladega quite a bit. We are either second or whatever, but can't seem to get the pole. Hopefully, we can get one before the season is out. It would be nice to get one in my last year knowing that I don't really qualify all that well. Not much of a qualifier myself, but especially since we went to these two, three rounds, I don't think I've gotten a pole since. It would be nice to get one before the end of the season."
Q) FIRST FRONT ROW START HERE AT TALLADEGA:
Earnhardt Jr.: "Well, that's good I didn't know that. Yeah, the car is really fast and that gives us good confidence in the speed of the car. There were a couple of things, obviously, we didn't get to practice a lot, so there are a couple of things I felt out there during my lap I didn't like about the way the car drove, so that was good to be able to see that and feel that and maybe we can address it before the race."
Q) HOW MUCH DOES IT MEAN TO BE ON THE FRONT ROW HERE? DOES IT MATTER THAT THERE WERE ONLY 14 MINUTES OF PRACTICE FOR THIS RACE?
Earnhardt Jr.: "It wouldn't have mattered as far as with the way the rules are for the plate tracks, pretty much what you unload is what you've got. Guys don't really find a lot of speed in practice. You just go out there and find out whether your car is quick in the pack or not and if it ain't you are just disappointed. Not much you can do about it, but if it is you are happy. We didn't really get to find out much in practice. It does give the guys an idea of... travels are really critical and how much the car travels and getting it just right, getting the splitter just right on the ground, not too low, not too high, all that good stuff. So, being able to get on the track at least for a lap or two was really good for all the teams that had that chance."
Q) ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE STARTING ON THE FRONT ROW:
Earnhardt Jr.: "Oh sorry, yeah, it doesn't mean anything (laughs). It doesn't mean nothing. I wanted the pole, didn't get it."
Q) IT SOUNDED LIKE IF YOU DO GET A POLE YOU MIGHT LOBBY FOR A SPOT IN THE CLASH NEXT YEAR?
Earnhardt Jr.: "Yeah, I've got a 'get in the Clash free card' from this year. I got a credit and if I get a pole I will talk to Rick (Hendrick) and see if we can't line something up."
Q) YOU ARE ALREADY THINKING ABOUT THAT?
Earnhardt Jr.: "(Laughs) Well, the Clash isn't really an official race. It would be fun to talk about it."