Travis Pastrana will lead the NASCAR Nationwide Series to the green flag on Saturday afternoon presuming inclement weather doesn’t hit the Talladega Superspeedway. It’s Pastrana’s first career pole award in NASCAR since moving over from motocross last season.
Previously, Pastrana’s best qualifying effort came at Daytona in February, the only other superspeedway track on the NASCAR circuit. Pastrana won the pole for the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega with a lap time of 54.355 seconds, clocking in at 176.5 mph. Stunningly enough, besides winning the pole, Pastrana blew away from the pack in qualifying as he edged out the outside pole winner, Austin Dillon, by more than a tenth of a second. Pastrana’s pole shows that the Roush-Fenway Racing crew is strong once again at the superspeedways which they’ve always been thanks to the Roush-Yates engine package. His Roush-Fenway Racing teammate, 2011 Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, qualified third for the event.
Danica Patrick qualified a respectful fourth in the Turner-Scott Motorsports No. 34 Chevrolet. Her fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano qualified 12th and 13th respectively. It would be rather interesting to see those two hook up for the tandem draft at the start of the race considering they drive for rival manufacturers, but stranger things have happened at Talladega.
NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader, Sam Hornish Jr., qualified sixth in his Ford Mustang for Penske Racing. Elliott Sadler will be starting seventh and is probably the strongest candidate to break the streak of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars winning at Talladega since 2005.
A few notable drivers in the lineup include John Wes Townley in the No. 25 Toyota Camry for Venturini Motorsports who’s starting 10th on Saturday. Joey Coulter makes his debut for Joe Gibbs Racing as a teammate to Sadler and Brian Vickers this weekend. Coulter qualified 11th on Friday which is his best career NASCAR Nationwide Series start in what will now be three races. Jeff Green also had a solid qualifying run clocking in the 14th position. The highest qualifying rookie of the year candidate is Alex Bowman in the 15th position, but the 17th-20th positions are each rookies.
Missing the race were Stanton Barrett and Tim Andrews. Barrett missed the race for the second consecutive week driving for Rick Ware Racing while Andrews is subbing for the injured Dexter Stacey who suffered a concussion in last weekend’s race at Richmond.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.