The final round of qualifying started for the XFINITY Series and nobody moved. They all sat there till a minute and two seconds were left on the clock, with Elliott Sadler making the first move off pit road, followed by Regan Smith and then the rest of the field. They would make it back to the line with only two seconds remaining on the clock. In the end, it’d be Austin Dillon pulling the right timing to score the pole for the Alert Today Florida 300.
“I was doing a lot of lobbying – felt like a politician trying to make things work,” Dillon commented. “That was fun. Glad that the Rheem Chevrolet was on the pole. I didn’t want to be the last car because if we gapped too much we wouldn’t make it around, but it was fun.”
Justin Marks would time in second, followed by Chad Boat, Brendan Gaughan and Aric Almriola.
“I don’t like this new format,” Almirola stated before the session started. “I don’t like any of the formats. I don’t know what NASCAR can do to make this work. I’m scared that I’m going to lead them off, and they’re going to run faster than me, and this good time is going to go home.”
Erik Jones will start sixth followed by Dakoda Armstrong, Ryan Reed, JJ Yeley, Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith.
The session wouldn’t go without incident as Harrison Rhodes would run into Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the beginning of group two in round one. Then, Daniel Saurez tried to squeeze through middle and clipped Bruce Cook. As a result, Harrison Rhodes, Landon Cassill, Koch, Carlos Contrearas, Tanner Berryhill and Saurez would all be involved in the wreck.
“It’s something different, but defiantly something more difficult,” Saurez commented. “So everyone was waiting to make at least one lap….and I think someone was in that group of cars and we had a pretty good run, from the slow cars tried to slow and I tired to make a run and I wrecked. This is not the time that you want to wreck. You only gain work.”
There also a close call when Brian Scott got sideways through the tri-oval after contact from Chris Buescher, but was able to save it.
“I’m 90% sure that I didn’t hit the 2 in the tri-oval. I’m almost sure I didn’t,” Buescher said on the radio.
““Sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good, and sometimes you over-correct and it hooks into the wall,” Scott sounded off. “I just got lucky. I was able to have the room and save it.”
Notably, when the drama was all said and done, defending series champion Chase Elliott will start 35th, with his car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting last on the field. Joe Nemechek, Scott Lagasse Jr, Tanner Berryhill, Bobby Gerhart, Harrison Rhodes, Carlos Contreras and Derrike Cope failed toqualify for the event. Lagasse will get to run, though, as he will take over his teammate’s No. 10 ride, that was originally scheduled to be driven by Mike Bliss.
Many drivers were left unhappy with the format in the end.
“I don’t know,” Kyle Busch commented. “I could say a lot of things that could get myself in trouble, but I will just say that this isn’t what we intended and somehow, someway, this isn’t right. We have a bunch of torn cars which we shouldn’t have in qualifying, you have guys that have speed that have gotten through but can’t run, and someone like Earnhardt that has speed that could’ve transferred through if he didn’t have to check up.”
“This whole new deal is interesting for everybody,” Darrell Wallace Jr. said. “Hate to see torn up racecars but glad that we made it through. I don’t know who Ty and I passed, but I wasn’t going to break the momentum.”
“I think you have a lot of young drivers that have their crew chiefs and engineers in their heads telling you to do this, side draft, and lay back and they’re not actually driving the car,” Sadler commented. “I think you have too many people out-thinking the system and complicating it.”
This qualifying process is ridiculous with a few expletives. It doesn’t work at this track. This is costing teams money, sponsors and more.
— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) February 21, 2015