Dale Earnhardt Jr. earns pole position for Daytona 500 | Auto racing
NASCAR is back — and so is Juniormania. Dale Earnhardt Jr. reclaimed the spotlight at Daytona speedweeks, winning pole position for...
The Associated Press
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR is back — and so is Juniormania.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. reclaimed the spotlight at Daytona speedweeks, winning pole position for the Daytona 500 with a lap of 186.089 mph in qualifying Sunday.
It's a boost for Earnhardt, who is coming off a couple of disappointing seasons and spent part of the past week facing questions about the 10-year anniversary of his father's death at the track.
Still, Earnhardt was in an upbeat, joking mood after winning the pole. And while he understands the hype his presence on the pole and his family ties are bound to stir up this week, he'll mostly try to ignore it.
"I wouldn't embrace that," Earnhardt said. "I'm here to race. And I understand the situation and I'm looking forward to seeing how my father is honored and remembered throughout the week, and I'll enjoy that, but ... I just want to focus on my job."
Having NASCAR's most popular driver take the green flag first next Sunday could provide some traction for a sport looking to pick up sagging television ratings and attendance.
Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, qualified second. It's the second straight Daytona 500 front row sweep for Hendrick, who put Mark Martin on the pole and Earnhardt in the No. 2 spot last year.
Bill Elliott, Travis Kvapil and Joe Nemechek also clinched spots in the field, and Terry Labonte is assured of a starting spot. The rest of the field will be set after a pair of qualifying duel races Thursday.
Enumclaw's Kasey Kahne will start 17th in Duel 1. Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., will line up fifth and Spanaway's Derrick Cope 23rd in Duel 2.
Qualifying was almost an afterthought Sunday, as drivers and crew chiefs were preoccupied with NASCAR's reaction to the sudden emergence of two-car drafting suddenly becoming the fast way to get around Daytona.
With the drafting duos pushing speeds past 200 mph, NASCAR officials imposed restrictions the cars' cooling systems Sunday evening.
It's an attempt to make it more difficult for one car to push another all the way around the track because the pushing car's engine might overheat; limiting the drafting tandems could reduce speeds.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.