TALLADEGA, Ala – It was a nice birthday present for Austin Dillon this weekend at the Talladega Superspeedway. Despite his car chief getting ejected due to a problem with his rear deck lid in pre qualifying inspection, Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet was fastest in qualifying, as he earned his second pole of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and fifth of his career with a lap of 192.544 mph in the second and final round of knockout qualifying.
NASCAR officials confiscated the rear deck lid of Dillon’s car, taking the offending part into the Monster Energy Series hauler in the Talladega Superspeedway garage.
Officials found the No. 3’s rear deck to be out of compliance with the NASCAR Rule Book. They took the piece of sheet metal — black with sanded edges — to the officials’ hauler for further review.
Penalties for that won’t be announced until after Sunday’s race, so Dillon’s lap will earn him the pole for the GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
He hasn’t won in the last 44 races, so a win on Sunday would be a big one for sure.
Starting alongside Dillon is the winner of the last Cup race at Talladega in Aric Almirola. The October race winner circled the 2.66-mile superspeedway with a lap of 192.131 mph in his No. 10 Ford.
Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate of Clint Bowyer will start third in his No. 14 Ford. Bowyer, qualified with a time of 191.723 mph.
Brad Keselowski (191.654 mph) and Daniel Hemric (191.456 mph) rounded out the top five for Sunday’s 188 Lap race.
Here are the main takeaways from Saturday’ qualifying session.
Penske’s Strong So Far
It shouldn’t come as a shock, but all three Penske cars made the final round of qualifying at Talladega. See, Penske and Ford’s in general have owned Talladega recently. So, for all three cars to earn starting spots in the first 4 Rows, that’s a good start.
Keselowski, was the best qualifier as he will roll off fifth. Ryan Blaney (7th) and Joey Logano (8th) will start one row back.
If these three can hook up with the two Stewart-Haas Racing cars in front as well as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who starts sixth, then watch out.
Toyota Went For Race Setup
Due to Talladega being an impound race, the way the cars qualified on Saturday will race that way on Sunday. The teams can’t touch the cars overnight. So, Toyota went a little more conservative with their setups, which is why their top starter is Martin Truex Jr. in 20th.
Plus, with this being a superspeedway track, starting position is irrelevant anyways.
All seven Toyota cars will start between 20th and 35th. They can all hook up together and move up through the pack on Sunday.
Hendrick Motorsports Not As Fast
Back at Daytona in February, Hendrick Motorsports qualified 1-2-3-4. They dominated restrictor plate qualifying over the last few years. But, with this new racing package that is debuting on a superspeedway this weekend, it showed that their advantage is gone.
Only half of their fleet made it to the final round but even that, they qualified ninth and 12th in it.
Overall, HMS rolls off 9th (Alex Bowman), 11th (Chase Elliott), 21st (Jimmie Johnson) and 25th (William Byron) respectively.
GEICO 500 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola
Row 2: Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski
Row 3: Daniel Hemric R, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 4: Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano
Row 5: Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson
Row 6: Chase Elliott, Michael McDowell
Row 7: Ty Dillon, Kurt Busch
Row 8: David Ragan, Daniel Suarez
Row 9: Paul Menard, Matt Tifft R
Row 10: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 11: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch
Row 12: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman
Row 13: William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto
Row 14: Erik Jones, Darrell Wallace Jr.
Row 15: Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Preece
Row 16: Chris Buescher, Landon Cassill
Row 17: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ross Chastain
Row 18: Parker Kligerman, Corey LaJoie
Row 19: Reed Sorenson, Justin Haley
Row 20: Stanton Barrett, Cody Ware