Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes pole for final Talladega race
TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the pole for his final scheduled Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt is retiring from full-time competition at the end of the season, and the Alabama crowd has always embraced NASCAR's most popular driver. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has declared race day "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Day" across the state. He turned a lap at 190.544 mph in Saturday qualifying to put his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the top starting spot. Chase Elliott, his teammate, qualified second. Joey Logano was third in a Team Penske Ford, followed by Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, two-time plate winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., teammate Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer. Ford drivers took positions third through seventh. It was a rough qualifying effort for Toyota, as none of its playoff contenders advanced to the final 12. Eliminated in the first round were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, as well as points leader Martin Truex Jr. Starting position doesn't mean much at Talladega, and Truex won at Charlotte last weekend so he's already in the third round of the playoffs.