After opening the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a subpar performance, Carl Edwards entered the second race of NASCAR's playoffs with the mentality he needed to win Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Edwards took a big step toward his goal by winning the pole for the Bad Boy Off Road 300 in qualifying Friday. His lap of 135.453 mph around the 1-mile track edged Martin Truex Jr. (135.212 mph), who won the Chase opener last week at Chicagoland Speedway. It was Edwards' third pole in the past four New Hampshire races and his Sprint Cup Series-leading sixth of the season.
"It's just what we needed," Edwards said. "We didn't run well at Chicagoland, I was very frustrated. To come here and start on the pole and get a good pit stall, hopefully we can have a good race."
Edwards was rather uncompetitive at Chicagoland, finishing 15th. He admitted to being frustrated with the result, but had his confidence boosted by crew chief Dave Rogers in a team meeting on Monday.
Although Edwards and Rogers each have extensive playoff experience, this is their first year working together. Edwards won twice during the 26-race regular season, and a victory Sunday would guarantee he makes the Chase's quarterfinal round.
"We've never been through this before," Edwards said. "And although Chicago was tough, (Rogers') spirit and the way he wants to go compete, I mean that guy never gives up, so it's pretty exciting to come racing with him.
"I went to the shop early in the week and Dave was over that pretty quickly. He was focused really hard here on this race."
Ryan Newman qualified third, with Jimmie Johnson fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Completing the top 12 were Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, rookie Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Of the top-12 starters, all but Newman and Kahne are among the 16 championship-eligible drivers in the Chase.
Title contender Kevin Harvick was third-fastest in the lone practice earlier Friday, but uncharacteristically struggled in qualifying, failing to advance to the third round of the knockout session. His lap of 133.717 mph places him 19th on the grid.
Chris Buescher and Austin Dillon qualified 28th and 29th, respectively. They were the only two Chase drivers who did not transfer out of Round 1. Dillon was driving a backup car after pancaking the Turn 1 wall during practice and sustaining heavy damage to his primary No. 3 Chevrolet.
"It's not the exact same car, it's a little older car, but same type of car we ran here the first time and we ran pretty solid in that race," Dillon said. "We will just go out there and drive it hard and see what it gives me."
BAD BOY OFF ROAD 300 QUALIFYING RESULTS
|2||Martin Truex, Jr.||Toyota||135.212|
|21||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||133.031|