Menard starts on pole for Sprint Unlimited

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Saturday, Feb 14 1375

Paul Menard's luck continued to hold.

The driver of the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet won the pole position for Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited (8 p.m. ET on FOX) during a Friday afternoon drawing in the Fan Zone at Daytona International Speedway.

Menard was one of four alternates who qualified for the non-points exhibition race after four eligible drivers -- Brian Vickers, Brian Scott, AJ Allmendinger and David Gilliland -- declined to compete. Vickers chose not to participate for medical reasons and the other three because their race teams opted out.

Menard will lead a field of 25 drivers to the green flag, with Kasey Kahne on the front row beside him. Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will start third and fourth, respectively.

Under expanded criteria for eligibility for the Sprint Unlimited, all 16 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers from 2014 are included in the field. Pole winners from 2014, all former Daytona 500 pole winners who participated full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series last year and former winners of the Unlimited also are eligible.

Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joined Menard as alternate drivers added to the field based on their points positions in last year's final standings.
The 75-lap event will be run in segments of 25 and 50 laps, with a competition caution after Lap 25.

With no Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona this season, track time gained by drivers in the Unlimited can be invaluable as they prepare for next Sunday's 57th running of the Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

"We weren't originally in the Sprint Unlimited, but some cards fell our way and we'll be racing Saturday night," said Stenhouse, who drew the 20th starting position. "Since we didn't get to test the normal Daytona test, the Sprint Unlimited will be very beneficial for us to measure our car versus other teams.

"But with it being a non-points race, we'll definitely take some chances. I'm looking forward to climbing back in the seat on Saturday, and I hope I can get this Fastenal Ford into Victory Lane."

Stenhouse, who was second fastest behind Kurt Busch in Friday's opening Sprint Unlimited practice, is one of five Ford drivers who will compete on Saturday night. From a manufacturer's standpoint, Chevrolet is the dominant car make with 15 drivers in the field.

Interestingly, only five times since the Sprint Unlimited debuted as the Busch Clash in 1979 has a driver won the race and gone on to take the checkered flag in the Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon, who will retire from full-time racing at the end of the season, is the only Chevy driver to have accomplished that feat.
Gordon will start 11th on Saturday night.

The race will mark the first competitive appearance of Carl Edwards in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after an offseason move from Roush Fenway Racing. Edwards will start 14th.