Under chamber of commerce blue skies in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Edwards turned in a blistering lap of 126.562 miles per hour in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to win the pole for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
With the run at the Glen, Edwards has now swept the poles at both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road races this year. For his career, Edwards has qualified No. 1 20 times, including four this season.
The scary part for the competition? Edwards says his Toyota teammates are even better than he is.
“My teammates, they’re really fast,” said Edwards. “Kyle (Busch) is really fast and Martin (Truex Jr.) is really fast. We’ve got to work a little bit in race trim, but we’re starting up front, we’ve got a great pit crew and hopefully we can put that Stanley Toyota in Victory Lane.”
Qualifying second was Kyle Larson’s Chip Ganassi-owned Chevrolet, which ran 126.233 mph. Larson was especially pleased because he had struggled early during practice on Friday.
“We changed just about everything yesterday and finally got some grip late in practice,” said Larson. “You still could use some more, but it was fun. I didn’t think I’d end up second. I didn’t even think I ran that good of a lap in the first round.”
Tony Stewart was an impressive third in his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy, followed by Edwards’ teammates, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.
The 2.45-mile road course was repaved earlier this year, and there was heavy rain last night, making for a green track. And with no practice on Saturday, just two rounds of qualifying and rock-hard tires that got faster with more laps, it made for an unusual qualifying session.
In the first round of qualifying, Paul Menard spun his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the track’s inner loop, bringing out a red flag before more than half the field had even been on the track. Menard wound up 33rd.
Martin Truex Jr., who has one of the fastest cars in the field, was blocked on his hot lap when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came off pit road ahead of him. Truex ended up 14th.
The four-car Hendrick Motorsports squad continued to struggle, with none of the team’s drivers advancing to the second round of qualifying. Jimmie Johnson was best of the group at 13th, with Chase Elliott 16th, Jeff Gordon 21st and Kasey Kahne 23rd.
Stewart was the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to make the second round, as Kevin Harvick qualified 15th, Kurt Busch 17th and Danica Patrick 31st.