Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is introduced to the spectators at the 2015 NASCAR SPRINT CUP Series Ford Ecoboost 400 race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. File photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Qualifying for Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was shaping up to be a sentimental story -- until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said "No."
The last driver to make a run in Saturday's final round of knockout qualifying, Stenhouse knocked Dale Earnhardt Jr. off the provisional pole for Earnhardt's last spring race at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Stenhouse's first since he secured his only previous top starting spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2013 in Atlanta. It was the first pole for a Ford driver at Talladega since Travis Kvapil won his only career pole in October 2008.
And it was the first Talladega pole for Roush Fenway Racing since Mark Martin did the honors in both races in 1989.
"It will be nice to lead the field to green," Stenhouse said. "The guys work really hard on these cars. Jimmy Fennig does a great job on the speedway cars. It's just cool.
"Doug Yates (engine builder) builds some awesome horsepower. With his dad, Robert, not doing as well as we would like, I'd like to dedicate this one to him and all the hard work the engine shop does."
Stenhouse ran 191.547 mph on his money lap, picking up a quarter-second over his first-round effort.
With superspeedway qualifying consisting of one full-field round and a second round to decide the pole between the 12 fastest cars, Stenhouse topped the first round with a lap at 190.833 mph.
Stenhouse's margin over Earnhardt in the final round was substantial, but Earnhardt nevertheless was disappointed not to win the pole in what will be his final season in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing.
"We would have loved to have got the pole," Earnhardt said. "Stenhouse and those guys had a really fast car, so congratulations to them and Roush/Yates Engines and all those guys -- they had great power. Pretty happy with our car. The Hendrick guys have been doing a great job. We always kind of come down here and find ourselves with an opportunity for the pole.
"Hopefully, we'll get one before the year is out at one of these plate tracks. I know the guys have been so close at Daytona and Talladega for so many years, so it would be great to do it this last season together. Just came up a little short today, but the car is fast and it will be good for Sunday."
Earnhardt did allow, however, that he would consider running the Daytona Clash, primarily for pole winners, should he qualify for next year's season-opening exhibition race.
"It's not a points race," said Earnhardt, making room for a possible exception to his retirement.
Brad Keselowski qualified third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne, Stenhouse's teammate at Roush Fenway Racing.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying - Geico 500
Saturday, May 6, 2017
1. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 191.547 mph.
2. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 190.780 mph.
3. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 190.427 mph.
4. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 190.177 mph.
5. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 190.155 mph.
6. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 190.023 mph.
7. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 190.011 mph.
8. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 189.921 mph.
9. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 189.643 mph.
10. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 189.582 mph.
11. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 189.470 mph.
12. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 189.077 mph.
13. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 189.350 mph.
14. (77) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 189.313 mph.
15. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 189.286 mph.
16. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 189.256 mph.
17. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 189.036 mph.
18. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 189.036 mph.
19. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 189.021 mph.
20. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 188.961 mph.
21. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 188.448 mph.
22. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188.345 mph.
23. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 188.219 mph.
24. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 187.901 mph.
25. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 187.883 mph.
26. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 187.794 mph.
27. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 187.776 mph.
28. (13) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 187.416 mph.
29. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 187.405 mph.
30. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 187.361 mph.
31. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, 186.995 mph.
32. (75) Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, 186.155 mph.
33. (55) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 186.119 mph.
34. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 186.047 mph.
35. (7) Elliott Sadler(i), Chevrolet, 185.895 mph.
36. (83) Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 185.144 mph.
37. (23) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 184.172 mph.
38. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 183.807 mph.
39. (15) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, 183.353 mph.
40. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 182.699 mph.
One driver failed to qualify:
41. (96) DJ Kennington, Toyota, 183.892 mph.