TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Rarely do things go according to plan at NASCAR's most unpredictable track, Talladega Superspeedway. The exception, however, was Saturday during qualifying for Sunday's Aaron's 499.
In a strategy crafted during a pre-session team meeting, Richard Childress laid out how his four drivers -- and drivers with an associate teams -- would qualify near the front. And just as Childress envisioned, Brian Scott (198.290 mph) led a sweep of the top six positions for Childress-powered cars.
The plan called for Ryan Newman to be the guinea pig and lead a parade of associated drivers around the 2.6-mile track. Newman's Chevrolet would be taped-off almost completely so as to maximize aerodynamics, a tactic which ensured he would not be the No. 1 qualifier, with Paul Menard at the rear pushing the pack.
Friday night BBQ wrestling
In a toned down Talladega tradition, NASCAR fans dove into a 500-gallon pool of barbecue sauce in the infield and spent the night wrestling.
"It worked out good for him; it worked out good for us," Menard said. "The top six were (Childress engines) and all the affiliates of Richard Childress Racing, so I couldn't be happier."
Scott, a full-time Nationwide Series driver attempting to qualify for his fifth career Sprint Cup race, did not have a guaranteed starting position, so Childress placed him in the middle where Scott's teammates would act as his wingmen.
"It is always a team effort to get these Superspeedway poles," Scott said. "We had a plan from the beginning to work as a team. Newman was the point man. I know how that feels because I was the point man in the Nationwide car yesterday. You feel like you don't really have a shot, but you do it to be a team player."
Menard will share the front row with Scott, followed by AJ Allmendinger, Casey Mears and Daytona 500 pole-sitter Austin Dillon. Newman starts sixth.
Saturday marked the first time NASCAR's new group-qualifying format debuted on a restrictor-plate track. Many drivers entered the day apprehensively, almost certain a multi-car wreck would mar the session, much like what happens in race conditions at Daytona and Talladega.
Save for Kyle Busch scraping the wall, however, the session was incident-free.
"I knew it was going to be intense and pretty wild," said 11th-place qualifier Jeff Gordon. "It certainly lived up to that. You just have no idea how close you are at every moment of having a crash."
Danica Patrick qualified seventh, her best starting position since winning the 2013 Daytona 500 pole, and only her third top-10 start overall. Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 10.
Due to minor rule infractions, NASCAR disallowed the times of Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. Both will start at the rear of the field Sunday.
Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Eric McClure and J.J Yeley failed to qualify.
Aaron's 499 starting lineup
|25||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||197.908|
|30||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||197.765|
|42||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||No time|
|43||Martin Truex, Jr.||Chevrolet||No time|