Rain has washed out qualifying for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega, meaning that the field will be set based on the first practice speeds from Friday. That puts Carl Edwards at the front of the field. However, Mother Nature being fickle, even though Edwards starts at the front he won't benefit from the pole position for the purposes of qualifying for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited.
"We were all driving like idiots out there in first practice knowing it was probably going to rain today," Marcos Ambrose said shortly after qualifying was rained out. Ambrose will start third, and he's pleased: "It's good to start at the front. It eliminates a lot of accidents."
Edwards paced the field with a time of 47.958 seconds for 199.675 miles per hour. Lining up alongside him on the front row is Martin Truex Jr., who was just 0.025 mph slower than Edwards. Filling out the rest of the top 10: Ambrose, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne. (Full qualifying order via practice is right here.)
Hamlin will be the focus of the early segment of the race. Out for the past four weeks after suffering a compression fracture in his back, Hamlin ran 16 laps in practice on Friday and felt so good he allowed for the possibility that he might run the entire race.
''If it wasn't for my crew chief, I would have ran it out of gas,'' he said after his qualifying session. ''I just wanted to feel speed again. We're competitors and when you see the people on TV in other sports fighting through injuries to come back to the field or the court, we feel that same thing. We have alligator blood. I don't know what to say. We're a different breed. We're willing to throw caution to the wind just to get back to what we are doing.''
More likely, he'll turn over the car to Brian Vickers during a caution. Hamlin and Vickers practiced the driver switch on Friday and were able to pull off the exchange in about a minute. That maneuver will allow Hamlin to receive points for the weekend's race and aid him in trying to clamber back into the hunt for the 2013 Chase.
Left out of Sunday's race: Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 81 Alert Energy Gum Toyota. NASCAR's rules for rainouts left Sadler on the outside looking in even though he ran the 36th fastest speed. Only 44 cars had sought to qualify for Talladega.
Rain will almost certainly be a factor in Sunday's race, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. The National Weather Service is predicting a 70 percent change of rain. Talladega has no lights, and sunset is about 8:30 p.m. ET. NASCAR's new Air Titan track-drying system could dry the track in well under the typical two hours necessary to get the track in racing condition.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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