BROOKLYN, Mich. — Carl Edwards exhaled when he sat down in the media workroom at Michigan International Speedway. Maybe it was relief, or maybe exhaustion.
Whatever it was, Edwards admitted that his achievements at the Irish Hills track come with a certain emotional attachment. It’s the place where he made his first Sprint Cup start in 2004 and the track where he won Sprint Cup races in 2007 and 2008.
Friday at the 2-mile superspeedway, Edwards won the pole for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 with a qualifying lap speed of 202.452 miles an hour and was one of 13 drivers to eclipse the 200-mile-an-hour qualifying mark.
Edwards regarded Friday’s pole win as part of a bigger picture.
“This is one lap, and it’s good, and I’m really happy,” said Edwards, who drives for Roush Fenway Racing. “But the process that’s going to put us out in front of Hendrick Motorsports and the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing and the rest of these guys, that process is just starting. If we can use these positives things like the pole position and hopefully a win, we can use these things to move forward and gain faith in a better process, I think it’s going to be great. The engine is a big part of it and the engine group came through.”
Edwards admitted after winning the pole that he came to MIS in a certain state of mind. Edwards locked himself out of his rental car Friday morning after jogging and he and his crew chief tracked down an employee of a used car lot, who unlocked Edwards’ car.
That pursuit, Edwards said with a wry smile, took his mind off the stress of qualifying.
“It was a little adventure,” Edwards said. “I’d rather not say exactly where we got the keys out. I mean, the guy did use a crowbar to break into the car. I didn’t ask him how he knew how to do that so well.”
Edwards won the pole ahead of Kurt Busch (201.879) and Kasey Kahne (201.213). During the morning and afternoon practice sessions, Kahne had the fastest lap of 200.619 miles per hour, ahead of Busch (200.239) and Aric Almirola (200.028).
Marcos Ambrose, who won last year’s Quicken Loans 400 pole with a track-record qualifying speed of 203.241, was 23rd in Friday’s qualifying (198.692).
Almirola will start fifth, behind Paul Menard and ahead of Joey Logano.
Sprint Cup drivers have two practices at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. today, before Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400.
While Logano finished sixth in qualifying (200.725), he admitted he wasn’t thrilled with his two laps around MIS, though he anticipated a spot in the top 10 for Sunday’s start.
“The car’s probably a little bit too sensitive but we’ll still have a decent starting spot with our Shell/Pennzoil Ford,” Logano said. “We’ll try to make something happen here at Michigan. It’s one of the places we want to succeed and win, being in Ford’s backyard.”
There might also be some pride at stake for Ford. On Friday, MIS president Roger Curtis introduced a manufacturer’s trophy, to be awarded to the winning manufacturer of the June and August races at MIS. The unnamed trophy will be awarded at the August Sprint Cup race.
Edwards, however, looked short-term and made a forecast in regards to Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of guys pick up a lot of time,” Edwards said. “This new car is so much faster and has so much more grip. Now you’ve really got to make the car work. It’s going to be a tough race. If there are long, green-flag runs and none of us know exactly how the tires are going to act, you’re going to have to adjust in the car, as well.
“So, yeah, the race will be different.”