FORT WORTH, Texas — Please excuse Carl Edwards. He was feeling left out.
Edwards interrupted what has become a two-man battle for the Sprint Cup Series championship in theory if not in fact, to win the pole for Sunday’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Edwards, who went out late in Friday’s qualifying session, used an average lap speed of 196.114 mph to knock fellow Ford driver Brad Keselowski out of the top spot.
Although he and his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team may be 10th in the series standings and out of the championship hunt for all practical purposes, Edwards remains focused on returning to Victory Lane.
“We’re here to win,” said Edwards, who has won twice this season, at Phoenix and Richmond, Va. “We’re trying as hard as we can. We’ve given it everything we’ve got.
“My guys worked so hard here on the test. I think we were the last people to leave the race track at that test, and the guys worked really hard and it paid off today. I have wanted the pole here so badly for so long – it is just really cool.”
The pole is Edwards’ second of the season and 13th of his career.
The pole contributes to an opportunity Edwards already had to end the season with a strong run, and he does not want to squander it over the final three races.
Roush cars have typically performed well at Texas – Edwards has three wins here – and Homestead, and Edwards won the spring race at Phoenix.
“I would like to win the championship, but I don’t know if that is in the cards,” Edwards said. “I can tell you that we will go to these last three races to win all three races. There is nothing we are not bringing to the race track equipment-wise, effort-wise and we are coming to win.
“For us, it is really about gearing up for next season. I never believed in momentum, but you guys have proved me wrong. I guess what I am saying is that we would really like to, no matter what the points situation, to finish the season strong because I feel it will help us get started next season.”
Fords may own front row Sunday, but this season’s top championship contenders are not far behind.
Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth – who are tied atop the standings – qualified third and sixth, respectively. Jeff Gordon, who is third and 27 points behind, will line up eighth.
Several drivers, including Edwards, Johnson and Kenseth, were just at Texas a little more than a week ago participating in a test that had been delayed a week by bad weather.
“We tested here, and I feel good about our car,” Johnson said. “We just wrapped up a few days in Homestead, so I feel good about our stuff.
“When we pulled in to test here and at Homestead, we noticed Joe Gibbs Racing was there, too, so it’s not like we’ve been getting a leg up on Matt. It’s hard to feel like we found something over them, but we had two really good test sessions.”
For the remaining drivers in the Chase, Kyle Busch qualified fifth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seventh, Kasey Kahne 11th, Joey Logano 12th, Ryan Newman 13th, Greg Biffle 18th, Kevin Harvick 19th, Clint Bowyer 26th and Kurt Busch 31st.
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