Dale Earnhardt Jr. did more than win the pole at Kentucky Speedway, the Hendrick Motorsports driver also broke the track record with a blistering 183.636 mph lap.
Earnhardt was able to catch a timely cloud during qualifying laps on Friday. The cloud stuck around just long enough for the NASCAR driver to get his laps in.
Because of this, Earnhardt was able to edge out Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards, as well as fellow Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson. Later on, the pole winner commented, “Lucky enough, the cloud cover was pretty heavy when we got out there. It makes a big difference.”
Earnhardt added that he saw the clouds coming in six or seven cars in front of him. He added that he was hoping the sun wouldn’t come back out again before his lap started.
Cooler asphalt helps the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars go faster, because they have more grip on the track. Of course, not all drivers thought the weather was playing fair when it helped Jr. get the pole for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. Clint Bowyer, who qualified in 15th place, commented:
“Junior had a thunderstorm blow in over his lip and it’s like I’m standing in the middle of the desert!”
Edwards also lucked out with clouds during his qualifying run, though not quite as much as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Edwards joked that his fellow drivers “were real religious out there on pit road” during qualifying. While laughing, he explained:
“You start to think about all the things you’ve been doing wrong in your life and you think, ‘Gosh, I hope I’ve been walking the right path enough for this cloud to work out.’ ”
And the clouds did work for Earnhardt, who leads the field to the green flag Saturday. The Coors Light Pole award is Jr.’s 12th in his career and his first since last September in Richmond.