TALLADEGA, Ala. And a rookie shall lead them.
Youd have to be very into motorsports to know Brian Scotts resume. Hes 26 and from Boise, Idaho. Hes driven in the Truck series and in Nationwide. Hes about to make his fifth-ever start in a Sprint Cup car.
Hell do so from the pole at Talladega Superspeedway in the Aarons 499.
Scott, who now lives in Mooresville, was quick to acknowledge an element of luck to his big day qualifying. But it was also an element of experience where, in this one instance, he trumped most everyone else in the Sprint Cup field.
Thats because Nationwide drivers have twice done this new knockout qualifying format at superspeedways at Daytona at the start of the season and at Talladega Friday. There was no knockout format for the Daytona 500, and it was clear Saturday that drivers and teams were still feeling their way through this in a restrictor-plate setting.
Daytona and Talladega are all about drafting, which means forming alliances. You simply cant go fast enough all by yourself.
Richard Childress rounded up his drivers and some others who buy technical support from RCR and formed the winning alliance in the three-round qualifying. This entailed veteran Ryan Newman leading the way and thus reducing his chance of running the fastest lap.
Scott wound up the beneficiary of a group of six drivers working in such unison. It also boosted Paul Menard to second, AJ Almendinger to third and rookie Austin Dillon to fifth for Sundays 1 p.m. start on Fox.
It speaks volumes on the effort in that shop, Scott said of RCR.
Sure (winning the pole) was a lot of luck, but also a little bit of planning. Normally as a rookie you dont expect (to know more) but this was situational. As far as group qualifying (at a superspeedway) we do have more experience than the Cup guys right now.
Nationwide drivers described Fridays qualifying as cat and mouse in that some drivers would simply refuse to go out on the track at the outset of a session. Being at the start of a pack minimizes the benefit of drafting. The further back in a line a car sits, the more its pulled along at top speed.
So no one pulled onto the track the first two minutes of the five-minute final session. Finally Newman pulled out to start the action.
We all know its a waiting game who panics first? Scott said. They get impatient and pass us. That just makes us faster.
The question becomes how much Saturdays success carries over to Sundays race. Starting from the pole doesnt traditionally count for much at Talladega because there are so many crashes and the field tends to churn.
However, what got Scott to the pole and Menard, Almendinger and Dillon high in the starting grid could translate to the race. Youre nothing at Talladega if youre all by yourself.
It made great sense to get all these cars in a pack, said Almendinger.
To which Menard added, Its always about teammates. You dont want to intentionally screw each other up.
You try to stay together as much as you can. But you are going to separate (as other drivers make their moves), and then you do your own thing.
Rookie Dillon picked Dale Earnhardt Jr.s brain about alliances at superspeedways.
Junior is one of the best here, and he told me you have no friends here, Dillon said. But its been working so far.
Speaking of Earnhardt, he tweeted after qualifying that Scott winning this pole just makes him a bigger target next time they gather for a paintball excursion. Scott laughed when told that and had a comeback.
Last time I shot him three times after he was out.
Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell
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