Dale Earnhardt Jr. to start first for potential final Cup race at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start first for his likely final Cup start at Daytona. (Getty)

Is Saturday night shaping up to be a fairytale ending for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Cup Series career at Daytona?

Junior won the pole for Saturday’s race on Friday afternoon, posting the fastest lap in each of the two rounds of qualifying and beating teammate Chase Elliott for the top spot. A win at Daytona would likely get Junior into NASCAR’s playoffs in 2017, his final full-time season in the Cup Series.

After he got out of his car, Earnhardt Jr. lamented the lack of utilization of Thursday’s two practice sessions by the 40 drivers entered in Saturday’s race. Because crashes can happen in an instant at a track like Daytona, teams were conservative during practice. Many teams opted out of the second practice and didn’t spend much time drafting in the first one.

“I’ll be honest with you, this track’s a little slick and starting to age. I think all the competitors and crew chiefs need to probably consider spending a little more time drafting and putting more laps on their cars. I sure would have liked to have had that opportunity to get into a little larger pack yesterday. I saw some things from my car that are concerning as far as the balance and I don’t know if a lot of guys got themselves into that situation.”

Junior’s most recent win at Daytona came in the 2015 July race when he won as Austin Dillon’s car went flying into the catchfence. He’s won four points races at the track, including the 2001 July race, the first Cup race at Daytona since the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in that year’s Daytona 500.

Here’s the starting lineup for the race.

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Chase Elliott
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Kasey Kahne
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Joey Logano
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Danica Patrick
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Jimmie Johnson
13. Matt Kenseth
14. Trevor Bayne
15. Kurt Busch
16. Kyle Busch
17. Erik Jones
18. Denny Hamlin
19. Austin Dillon
20. Daniel Suarez
21. Kyle Larson
22. Ryan Newman
23. Michael McDowell
24. Paul Menard
25. Martin Truex Jr.
26. Landon Cassill
27. AJ Allmendinger
28. Matt DiBenedetto
29. Chris Buescher
30. David Ragan
31. Darrell Wallace Jr.
32. Brendan Gaughan
33. Elliott Sadler
34. Ty Dillon
35. Cole Whitt
36. Corey LaJoie
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Ryan Sieg
39. Jeffrey Earnhardt
40. DJ Kennington

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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