Edwards had the fastest car in both Nationwide Series practice and Sprint Cup Series practice before laying down the only sub- 15-second lap of the Cup qualifying session to capture the pole for Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City.
Edwards’ time of 14.989 seconds flirted with Ryan Newman’s track record of 14.908, established in March 2003. While it wasn’t record- breaking, it was enough to knock teammate Greg Biffle off the pole.
“Greg motivated me,” said Edwards, who posted a lap of 128.014 mph. “I didn’t think anybody was going to be able to go that fast. I thought that the track had slowed down a lot more than that, so I was out there driving my heart out.
“That was not a perfect lap – the front end was sliding in the center and the rear was sliding off the corner, but the car is just fast.”
Biffle’s time of 15.035 seconds made it an all-Roush Fenway Racing front row. Regan Smith, Paul Menard and David Regan rounded out the top five.
Edwards has been on fire since winning the final two races of the 2010 season. He opened 2011 with a runner-up finish in Daytona, won the pole in Phoenix and visited Victory Lane in Las Vegas last week.
Still, Edwards wasn’t sure his good fortune would continue in Bristol.
“The win at Vegas was huge, but I’ve been thinking about this racetrack a lot during the last couple weeks,” he said. “It’s an intimidating place, but we put it together. That was a fun two laps.”
Biffle, on the other hand, has gotten off to a rough start this season. Bad luck has left him 31st in points and desperate for a good finish Sunday.
“My car was really fast,” Biffle said. “I probably should have got the gas down a little bit sooner, but woulda, shoulda, coulda. I’ve got a really fast car and I’m really happy.
“The guys worked hard. It looks like we’ve come back from our incident at Las Vegas and we’re going to have a good run.”
Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10.
Co-points leaders Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch struggled to find speed.
Stewart will start 13th on Sunday while Busch will line up 20th. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s time of 15.191 put him 22nd on the grid.
Knoxville native Trevor Bayne will roll off 19th after posting a time of 15.171 seconds.
“We at least backed up what we did in practice, so that’s an OK thing,” Bayne said.
While Edwards was happy to collect the pole, the fact that he will be racing on different tires come Sunday tempered his excitement.
“The potential is there to just turn this field upside down,” Edwards said. “Guys that were struggling today could be dominant on Sunday. At a place like this, the tire and the way it deforms with this huge amount of load, it means the world.
“There’s going to be some computers burning up tonight trying to think of all the different possibilities.”
See Saturday's print or enhanced electronic version of the Times-News for more coverage from Bristol Motor Speedway.