CONCORD, N.C. – Carl Edwards captured the pole for the Sprint Cup All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, paying tribute to the late Dick Trickle along the way.
Edwards, the 2011 winner in the exhibition event, completed three laps and a four-tire pit stop Friday night in 1 minute, 51.297 seconds.
Kurt Busch will start alongside Edwards on the front row Saturday night.
Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch and Joe Logano rounded out the top five.
Edwards had Trickle’s name written just above his window, a tribute to the 71-year-old former NASCAR driver who died Thursday of what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Boger City, N.C.
Edwards said many of his crew members are from Wisconsin, where Trickle grew up and became a famous short-track driver.
“We felt like we needed to do something to honor him,” Edwards said. “I don’t know that I deserved to have his name above my window.”
For the first time since 2000, NASCAR waived the pit-road speed limit, allowing drivers to enter and leave the pits at high rates of speed.
“This was awesome,” Edwards said. “I vote that we do this at every race track.”
Not all agreed.
Judging the speed needed to stop in the pit stall threw off some drivers.
Defending all-star race champion Jimmie Johnson was among a handful of drivers who skidded past his pit stop when his breaks locked up. He was forced to back up, losing valuable time.
“I didn’t have the car under control in the breaking zone,” said Johnson, who’ll start 18th.
Kevin Harvick’s pit stop was even worse. He overshot his pit stall and didn’t back up far enough before his crew jumped the wall and began working on a tire change with his car still slightly over the line. His time was disallowed, and he’ll start at the back of the field Saturday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in second place at one point, but a loose lug nut cost him a 5-second penalty and dropped him out of the top 10.
Saturday night’s all-star race encompasses 90 laps, including four 20-lap segments leading up to a final 10-lap shootout for $1 million.
NASCAR has installed new rules to discourage drivers from sandbagging.
Last year’s champion Jimmie Johnson won the first segment and hung back in the pack for the other three segments knowing he’d secured a top-four starting spot in the final 10-lap shootout. That strategy worked well for Johnson, who jumped out to a big lead on the 10-lap shootout and cruised to an easy – and uneventful – victory.
This year’s segment winners aren’t guaranteed a top-four spot, and drivers will enter a mandatory pit stop before the 10-lap final segment based on their average finish in the first four segments.
Kyle Busch called last year’s rules “stupid” and said he encouraged NASCAR to change them.
“I think the rules are right this year,” Busch said. “Last year, you’re exactly right, you win a segment, and you roll in the back. We all knew that, and that was the strategy you have to play. Jimmie (Johnson) played it the best obviously. For this year, that’s entirely out the window.”
Track owner Bruton Smith also added some incentive by offering an additional $1-million incentive if a driver can win all four segments and the 10-lap shootout, meaning it’s conceivable a driver could take home $2 million.
Busch estimated the odds of a driver accomplishing that feat are about “300 to one.”
The top two finishers in the Sprint Showdown and the winner of the fan vote will fill out the 22-car field.
Danica Patrick is among those hoping to drive her way into the field.
There have been some rumblings from fans that NASCAR clarified its rule so that the fan-vote winner doesn’t have to finish on the lead lap of the Sprint Showdown to qualify for the all-star race as a way to ensure Patrick gets in.
“From my understanding that was a mistake on NASCAR’s part earlier in the week,” Patrick said. “So, outside of that I have absolutely no idea what the rules are from the past or what they’re going to be or what they’ve been. It’s all new to me.”