DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Austin Dillon put the famed No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet on the pole for the 56th annual DAYTONA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 23.
Dillon turned a lap of 196.019 mph around the 2.5-mile tri-oval during DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger on Sunday afternoon to become the second straight rookie to sit on the pole for “The Great American Race.” Danica Patrick captured the pole for last year’s DAYTONA 500.
The 23-year-old Dillon, grandson of Childress, is driving the legendary No. 3 car as he campaigns for rookie honors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2014. The historic No. 3 hasn’t been used in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition since 2001.
“Everybody wants to see this number perform well,” said Dillon, who has previously won the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck series championships driving the No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing. “That’s why my goals are to stay focused. I know this is just qualifying, but it is great for these guys.”
Dillon is the fourth driver in the history of the DAYTONA 500 to put a No. 3 car on the pole. Buddy Baker (1969), Ricky Rudd (1983), Dale Earnhardt (1996) previously won DAYTONA 500 poles with the No. 3 car.
Said Childress: “I couldn’t be more proud for Austin and (crew chief) Gil (Martin) and all the guys that worked so hard this winter to come down here and run good. We wanted to put on a good show with the No. 3 and couldn’t be more proud of everybody.”
Starting alongside Dillon will be Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., who posted a lap of 195.852 mph with an Earnhardt-Childress Racing built engine. Dillon’s No. 3 car was also outfitted with an ECR engine giving the engine company a sweep of the front row.
“Front row, that is what we are here for today,” Truex Jr. said. “Obviously can’t say enough about this team. What a great job I think we have got about seven miles on this car One run yesterday, no testing down here, just an amazing job by the team..”
Earning the DAYTONA 500 pole secures Dillon a spot in the invitation-only 2015 Sprint Unlimited At Daytona.
For the moment, Dillon will enjoy the spotlight for the next week as the DAYTONA 500 pole sitter.
The remainder of the DAYTONA 500 starting field will be finalized in Thursday’s inaugural nighttime running of the Budweiser Duel At Daytona 150-mile qualifying races (FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio), which begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Both Dillon and Truex Jr. will each lead their respective Budweiser Duel fields to the green flag on Thursday night.