WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — A year ago, Carl Edwards started 33rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International and finished third. This time he will start at the front of today's Heluva Good at the Glen race.
Edwards turned a lap of 124.432 mph in 70.882 seconds on Saturday to easily outdistance Jamie McMurray's lap of 123.814 mph in 71.236 seconds. It was just the fifth pole in 215 starts for Edwards, his first on a road course in Cup competition, and it was fast. Edwards was just a few ticks off Jeff Gordon's 2003 track record of 124.58 mph in 70.7979 seconds.
"Unbelievable! I can't tell you how much that helps our team," Edwards said. "… That's a great lap. We're just enjoying the wave we're riding. We're making a comeback."
And that should help team owner Jack Roush in his recovery from a plane crash 10 days ago. Roush, 68, also got a boost last week with Greg Biffle's win at Pocono. He is at the Mayo Clinic and will stay there indefinitely to treat facial injuries.
Edwards has put together four straight finishes of seventh or better, including a second at Chicagoland and a third a week ago at Pocono, to surge to 10th in the points standings with only five races remaining before the Chase for the championship. Only the top 12 drivers qualify for the Chase.
"It feels good," said Edwards, whose last pole was two years ago at Bristol. "You guys know how we've struggled. This last month we've been in going in the right direction. It means a lot to all the folks who stuck with us. … If I can just get a good start, keep our car up front, race in clean air, keep the fenders on it, I think the qualifying effort will pay off."
Juan Montoya will go off third, followed by AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch. Five-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart, Biffle, Scott Speed, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch round out the top 10.
Marcos Ambrose, who was second to Stewart in last year's race, will start 11th. Gordon, a four-time Watkins Glen winner, qualified 16th and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 41st.
Greg Biffle was fastest in Friday's practices. Coming off his win at Pocono and sitting 11th in the standings, Biffle said he decided to look at the big picture. "I ran a bit conservative," he said. "… I'm really thinking about the Chase right now."
The top four cars in the Hendrick Motorsports stable struggled in Friday's two practices despite feedback from Gordon, who took part in a Goodyear tire test in June and thought he had brought valuable data back to the shop. Only Johnson found enough speed to crack the top 10 in qualifying.
"With the tire test that Jeff was a part of, it's just kind of mind-boggling that we could have been that far off," said Johnson, who notched the first road course victory of his career at Sonoma in June. "Making up ground, I hope we can make up enough before the race."