Carl Edwards gained a key morale boost in his bid for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, claiming pole position for Sunday's season finale at Homestead.
The Roush Fenway driver had focused solely on qualifying during the final practice of the day, where he set the pace after running second fastest in the first session in which he ran in race trim only. His approach seemed to pay off for today at least, as he was able to repeat his speed in qualifying, with a lap of 30.775 seconds at an average speed of 175.467 mph.
Edwards' pole, only his second of the season, will not only give him the chance to score a bonus point if he leads the first lap, but also the first pit stall which may eventually be key to strategy during Sunday's 400-mile race.
In three of the past seven years, the eventual Cup champion has started from pole position, a statistic Edwards hopes to be able to add to.
"We've still got to run this race and I know how tough [title rival Tony Stewart] can be," said Edwards after claiming his 10th career pole. "I'm not counting anything yet. We're just going to keep our heads down, work on the car, go do the best we can.
"If anything, this is just good for our morale and for everybody to go sleep easy tonight and know we're going to have a good day on pit road, know we'll hopefully be able to run out front and not get caught up in anything."
Title challenger Tony Stewart will line up 15th on the grid, hoping his long-run pace enables him to be in contention for victory on Sunday. He stressed however that his focus has been on race pace as qualifying has rarely proved key in his previous victories.
"We spent a lot of time trying to find out what the combination was for race trim," said Stewart about his approach to practice on Saturday. "We've got the one-lap deal out of the way, now we have to focus on 400 miles.
"His [Edwards'] lap times fell off pretty hard in the one long run that he did. Looking at that, that's why I'm still really confident that what we did was the right thing today. Our times don't fall off as far as his did."
Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex will start beside Edwards on the front row, while Red Bull's Kasey Kahne continued his strong end-of-season run with third, ahead of Penske duo Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski.
Wood Brothers' Trevor Bayne was the fastest of those having to qualify on speed in 20th, while Scott Speed, Reed Sorenson, Mike Skinner, Scott Riggs and Grant Enfinger failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 30.775s
2. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 30.891s + 0.116s
3. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 30.931s + 0.156s
4. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 30.942s + 0.167s
5. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 30.947s + 0.172s
6. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 30.950s + 0.175s
7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 30.957s + 0.182s
8. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 31.015s + 0.240s
9. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 31.017s + 0.242s
10. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 31.040s + 0.265s
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 31.051s + 0.276s
12. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 31.082s + 0.307s
13. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 31.092s + 0.317s
14. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 31.147s + 0.372s
15. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 31.154s + 0.379s
16. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 31.156s + 0.381s
17. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 31.164s + 0.389s
18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 31.165s + 0.390s
19. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 31.169s + 0.394s
20. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 31.185s + 0.410s
21. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 31.186s + 0.411s
22. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 31.197s + 0.422s
23. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 31.199s + 0.424s
24. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 31.220s + 0.445s
25. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 31.234s + 0.459s
26. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 31.268s + 0.493s
27. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 31.276s + 0.501s
28. David Reutimann waltrip Toyota 31.318s + 0.543s
29. Cole Whitt Red Bull Toyota 31.324s + 0.549s
30. JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 31.397s + 0.622s
31. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 31.428s + 0.653s
32. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 31.453s + 0.678s
33. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 31.568s + 0.793s
34. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 31.574s + 0.799s
35. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 31.601s + 0.826s
36. David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 31.601s + 0.826s
37. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 31.657s + 0.882s
38. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 31.738s + 0.963s
39. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 31.778s + 1.003s
40. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 31.919s + 1.144s
41. TJ Bell FAS Lane Ford 32.199s + 1.424s
42. Geoffrey Bodine Baldwin Chevrolet 33.161s + 2.386s
43. Mike Bliss TRG Ford 31.776s + 1.001s
Did not qualify:
Scott Speed Whitney Ford 31.853s + 1.078s
Reed Sorenson Gordon Dodge 31.885s + 1.110s
Mike Skinner Max Q Ford 32.031s + 1.256s
Scott Riggs K Automotive Chevrolet 32.186s + 1.411s
Grant Enfinger Sinica Chevrolet 32.568s + 1.793s