DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Describing it a "surreal moment," rookie Dylan Kwasniewski won the pole position with a speed of 192.078 mph for the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Kwasniewski, 18, driving a Chevrolet fielded by Turner Scott Motorsports, topped teammates Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick to earn the pole in his first series start Friday. Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler completed the top five qualifiers.
"For my first time at Daytona and getting a pole, it is an unexplainable feeling," Kwasniewski said. It all happened because of Danica and Kyle Larson, as they did a fantastic job of leading us through the pack and getting us clean through there. I just had to hang onto the back."
The session was supposed to feature the debut of NASCAR's new group, knockout-style qualifying format, which would see multiple drivers on the track at once and utilize eliminations after the first and second rounds. Persistent rain showers, however, curtailed qualifying and NASCAR used speeds from the truncated first session to set the field.
Not everyone was enamored with the revised qualifying format. Patrick called group qualifying a disaster waiting to happen, especially when the series visits smaller tracks like Bristol or Martinsville.
"I think this will be sometimes total disaster, particularly on short tracks," Patrick said. "... At some places, you will find drivers and even spotters mad at each other. If NASCAR was looking at making it interesting for the fans, they have done it."
The traditional start to the season for NASCAR's No. 2 series, Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 will be comprised of seven rookies. One freshman driver, Ryan Reed, crashed just minutes into the session. He was uninjured, and will start 39th in a backup car.
The green flag waves on the DRIVE4COPD 300 at 1:15 p.m. ET.