LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — With Carl Edwards leading the charge, Joe Gibbs Racing continued its recent hot streak and took four of the top eight qualifying spots for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Never a great qualifier, Edwards turned a lap of 135.164 mph Friday to win the pole, just the 14th in a career that dates to 2004. Edwards will lead the field to green for the first time since 2013 and for the first time for JGR.
“Thanks for pointing that out,” Edwards cracked when told of the drought.
Edwards also won his first pole in 22 career races at New Hampshire.
Joey Logano, who finished second last week at Kentucky Speedway, will start second. David Ragan, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin completed the top five.
JGR put four cars in the top eight for Sunday’s race: Edwards, Busch, Hamlin, and eighth-place Matt Kenseth.
JGR took four of the top-five spots in the Cup race at Kentucky. Busch won and Hamlin-Edwards-Kenseth went 3-4-5 and a signal that the organization will again field drivers that are a threat to win a championship.
“It feels to me like we’re in a sweet spot I’ve only been in a couple of times,” Edwards said. “All of us are fast and we’re all pushing one another, but we’re all sharing information.”
Edwards won a Charlotte Motor Speedway to pretty much guarantee him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. But he’s posted middling results in his first season in the No. 19 Toyota — Charlotte and Kentucky are his only top-fives. Edwards has just three top 10s, an average finish of 19.8 and is just 17th in the points standings.
Edwards, who had driven for team owner Jack Roush for 12 years, joined a new fourth Toyota team for Gibbs for this season. Edwards hasn’t been a title threat since 2011 when he lost the title to Tony Stewart on a tie-breaker. He went winless in 2012 and missed the Chase, and although he made two trips to victory lane in 2013, he finished last in the 13-driver Chase field. He had two more wins and was ninth in the final standings last season.
Reed Sorenson was the lone driver who failed to qualify. New Hampshire has seen 11 straight races with a different winner.
Brad Keselowski and Logano made it a Team Penske sweep last season.
“Second. It seems like the story of our week here coming off Kentucky with a strong second-place run and then qualifying second here as well,” Logano said. “Not that I’m complaining about it, but it’s not much fun finishing second, being so close to getting trophies and pole flags and all the fun stuff.”
The rest of the top 10: Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne was ninth and Keselowski 10th.
New Hampshire will be run under the rules package NASCAR set for the 2015 season. With great reviews from the drivers, Kentucky used a new rules package that included lower downforce. This package of lower downforce was specifically recommended by the drivers.
Teams will use a higher drag rules package next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and next month at Michigan International Speedway.
“I really don’t care if we show up and they change the rules package halfway through the race, it doesn’t bother me,” Edwards said. “You’re supposed to be able to adapt.”
NASCAR hasn’t said yet if any changes are in store for the race packages for the 10 race Chase.
“The coolest thing is that NASCAR is trying all these things,” Edwards said. “Kentucky went well. I believe everybody agreed that went well. They’ll try other packages. That’s a scientific method. Whatever turns out to be the best direction, hopefully they go all the way down that path and let it rip.”
NASCAR chairman Brian France told SiriusXM this week he wanted more out of the Kentucky package.
“I’ll tell you what we didn’t see that we would like to see more of is more drafting,” he said. “We didn’t see as much of that as we would have liked and more pack racing.”
Kyle Busch said different packages for different race tracks “is not such a bad thing” but comes with a price.
“I do agree with Tony Stewart that someone’s got to help these race teams with these costs of all these different packages,” Busch said. “It’s not always cheap especially with four teams. We all certainly didn’t budget for different aero packages in the beginning of the year and now we’ve got to rework our budgets in order to fit that in. It gets a little challenging sometimes.”
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.