A late draw and a gust of wind may have cost Trevor Bayne a shot at the Daytona 500 pole, but the defending race winner did earn a significant consolation prize.
With a ninth-place effort in Sunday's time trials at Daytona International Speedway, fastest among drivers who weren't locked into the race, Bayne assured himself of a starting position in next Sunday's 500.
That wasn't quite enough, however, to erase Bayne's disappointment at not claiming a front-row starting spot. Bayne went out 38th for his qualifying laps.
Carl Edwards, who led a Roush Fenway Racing sweep of the front row, was the fifth driver to make an attempt.
"I feel pretty good about the lap," Bayne said. "Last year, I would have been jumping up and down about qualifying in the top 10, but I really thought we had a shot at the pole, as good as our car was Saturday (second-fastest in the final practice session)."
"It's just the wind was against us. Going through (Turns) 3 and 4, I could feel it kind of gusting onto the nose of our car, so at that point, there's not much you can do. I held it wide open, and they gave me a great race car, so I think it's going to race really good, and that's all that really matters."
Though he scored an improbable victory in last year's race, Bayne wasn't locked into the field this year because his car owners, the Wood Brothers, ran a limited schedule in 2011 and finished the season outside the top 35 in owner points.
Accordingly, Bayne was relieved to secure a starting spot in the 500 without having to race his way into the field in Thursday's first Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race, where he'll start fifth.
"Yeah, it's a lot of relief," Bayne acknowledged. "Now we're back to the same position we were in last year. We started the Duel knowing we were locked in, and it was just wherever we finished, and now we're right back there – so I'm ready for it."
Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle will start first and second in the Daytona 500. The other 41 spots on the grid will be determined by the results of Thursday's Duels.