Gilliland, Sorenson 1-2 in rain-shortened qualifying
David Gilliland will start on the pole for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 after a rain-shortened qualifying session Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
It’s Gilliland’s third pole and second at Daytona. Gilliland, who won the Daytona 500 pole in 2007, had a fast lap of 199.322 mph.
The second and third sessions of Friday’s knockout qualifying were called off when rain hit the track. The top 24 drivers from the first and only session would have advanced to the next round, but the field instead was set with that session.
Reed Sorenson (199.221 mph) starts alongside Gilliland. The second row consists of Landon Cassill and Bobby Labonte.
The track’s $400 million “Daytona Rising” renovation project – which ultimately will result in a reduction in seating at the track – also continues. The project is due to be completed in time for the 2016 Daytona 500, but a section of new grandstands could be ready for next year’s race.
1. Weather might be a factor, which wouldn’t be unusual for a Cup race this season. Rain affected Sprint Cup and Nationwide qualifying and practice Thursday and Friday, and there’s a chance of thunderstorms again in Saturday’s forecast.
2. Kyle Busch, who won the 400 in 2008, has by far the highest driver rating (97.1) of any driver at Daytona over the past nine years (Matt Kenseth is second at 92.9). Busch is sure to contend Saturday.
3. Jimmie Johnson starts fifth, but he hasn’t had an especially strong car since his victory June 15 at Michigan. He led one lap at Sonoma and none last week at Kentucky.
• Tough stretch for Denny Hamlin, who won the season’s previous restrictor-plate race at Talladega. After consecutive top-five finishes at Dover and Pocono, Hamlin hasn’t finished better than 26th, and he wrecked out of last week’s race at Kentucky.
• Friday’s rain-shortened qualifying was nearly comical to watch, as some groups slowed to get behind others in hopes of forming fast packs with more speed. “It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
• Proud day Friday for all of us at the Observer upon the news that Tom Higgins will go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Squier-Hall Award. Congratulations, Pap!
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick