If Toyota and Ford are to break the Chevrolet stranglehold on Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the two manufacturers took a positive step in that direction during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials on Saturday.
Underscoring the recent resurgence of Joe Gibbs Racing, Carl Edwards toured the 2.5-mile track in 49.056 seconds (183.464 mph) to put his No. 19 Toyota on the pole for Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), edging Joey Logano’s Team Penske Ford (183.139 mph) by .087 seconds.
David Ragan (182.886 mph) qualified third in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Fourth-place qualifier Tony Stewart (182.823 mph) had the fastest Chevrolet in the final round. Chevrolets have won the last 12 Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis.
Stewart, though, had the fastest lap of the afternoon (185.547 mph) in the first round of time trials, which trimmed the number of drivers eligible for the pole from 46 to 12.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Edwards’ first at The Brickyard, his second of the season, his second in a row and the 15th of his career.
“After yesterday, this is amazing,” Edwards said. “We started so slow yesterday and we struggled. I think at one point (crew chief) Darian (Grubb) and I were looking at each other going, ‘What are we going to do here?’
“It was a struggle, and everybody buckled down, worked hard – I’m so proud of my guys. TRD and Toyota have been putting so much effort into this whole program. Stanley has been behind us 100 percent – not just me, but Matt Kenseth and our whole team. This is big. It will be neat to start up front.”
Kyle Busch, Edwards’ JGR teammate, will start ninth on Sunday in search of his third consecutive victory in the Sprint Cup Series. Sidelined for the first 11 events of the season by injuries sustained in an accident at Daytona in February, Busch has won three of the last four races and has seven races left in which to regain eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing the regular season in the top 30 in the series standings.
Entering Sunday’s race, Busch is 33rd in points, 58 behind David Gilliland in 30th place.
Behind Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up fifth through eighth on the grid.
After qualifying, Logano and Ragan were quick to point out an unusual coincidence. Edwards, Logano and Ragan started 1-2-3, in that order, a week before at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a one-mile flat track.
The Sprint Cup cars are running a completely different high-drag aerodynamic package this week, with a nine-inch-tall rear spoiler and a one-inch wicker. Last week at Loudon, the cars featured the normal 2015 rules package with a six-inch spoiler.
“David and I were just laughing up here that these are the same three race cars that started up front at Loudon,” Logano said. “A completely different race track, different package and the same cars are fast. It’s good for us. We’re close. Second always hurts, but it’s nice to be up toward the front, especially here.”
Jeff Gordon’s final run at Indianapolis as a full-time driver didn’t start the way the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet would have hoped.
“I really think our 3M Chevrolet is really good,” said Gordon, who qualified 19th. “It’s been good all weekend. I feel like I underestimated the grip. I had a little wiggle out of three coming to the green and that concerned me slightly. The grip was there in Turn 4, and I was aggressive into Turn 1, but not aggressive enough.
“That’s what’s disappointing; it wasn’t a balance issue or a speed issue. I didn’t get enough speed through (Turn) 1. It adds up with this new package. Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed to start back there.”
Notes: Josh Wise, Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field… Ryan Newman’s time was disallowed because he ran his lap without the mandatory right-side window in his car. Newman will start 43rd on Sunday on a provisional.