Gilliland Grabs Daytona Pole

David Gilliland

Gilliland's last pole was at Daytona in February 2007 (259 starts between). (Photo: Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A symbol lost, a trophy gained.

A day after losing his wedding ring swimming in the Atlantic Ocean with his family, David Gilliland won the pole in a rain-shortened qualifying session for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.     

Shortly after Gilliland won the pole, his wife Michelle tweeted that when she told 11-year-old daughter Taylor that he won the pole, she said: “Maybe that wedding ring was bad luck.’’

Gilliland smiled after hearing that.

He said he felt something was underneath his wedding ring while in the ocean. Gilliland reached down to check and the ring popped off into the water.

“We looked for it for probably an hour-and-a-half or two hours, but it’s kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack,’’ he said.

He had better luck in Friday’s bizarre qualifying session where drivers seemed to spend as much time slowly driving around the track for the right time to go as going fast.

“It’s kind of frustrating to try to figure it all out,’’ said Joey Logano, who starts 28th. “I’m as confused as everybody else is right now.’’

Not everybody.

Reed Sorenson, driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, qualified second - marking his second career front row starting spot in 207 Sprint Cup starts. Landon Cassill will start a career-best third. Bobby Labonte, making his second start of the season, qualified fourth. Jimmie Johnson is fifth.

Gilliland relished his third career pole, which earns him a spot in next year’s Sprint Unlimited.

“Things like this go a long ways for an organization like Front Row Motorsports,’’ Gilliland said. “Obviously we put a lot in to each and every race but these races are special for us and our guys, they know. They are working every week and the biggest thing is the morale booster and I can’t wait to go to the shop on Tuesday for our competition meeting and see everybody and they will all be walking a little taller. It is neat to watch.”

Friday’s qualifying matters to Sorenson and Cassill also.

It matters for Sorenson and Cassill as well.

Cassill finished 12th in this year’s Daytona 500 and 11th at Talladega. Now this.

“We don’t typically have the reputation of being fast week in and week out, but we invest everything we have into our superspeedway program. We actually have equipment for this race that is as good as anybody’s.

“I just need to show the other people out there how good my car. This helps because I’m going to do the best I can to run in the top 10 all day.’’

Sorenson says he’ll try to do the same thing to take advantage of his track position.

Matt Kenseth starts sixth with Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting seventh.

“You have to be in the very back and try to get a big tow,’’ Earnhadt said. “I ain’t ever seen anything like it. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”   

Several didn’t get into the right position and will start deep in the pack. Brad Keselowski starts 26th with Danica Patrick 29th, Clint Bowyer 34th, Kyle Larson 35th, Jamie McMurray 36th, Denny Hamlin 37th, Kyle Busch 39th and Kurt Busch 40th.

“It’s just so crazy that everyone pulls out and doesn’t go and then stops,’’ McMurray said. “Everyone has the same conditions. It just doesn’t feel like racing I think is the way to put it because half the time people are running 40 mph. I don’t even really know what to say because it’s so messed up that I can’t explain it.”

Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the Sprint Cup race from Daytona Int’l Speedway. Air time for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 is 6:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.

 

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