Dillon wins pole for Daytona 500

Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:05pm EST
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By Lewis Franck

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Austin Dillon, driving a car bearing the famed number three of late NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, won pole position for the Daytona 500 race on Sunday.

Dillon's Chevrolet posted a top speed of 196.019 mph at Daytona International Speedway to claim front row honors for the February 23 race, the first time Earnhardt's number has been used in a top-level NASCAR event since his death on the last lap of the 2001 race.

The 23-year-old rookie Dillon is the grandson of Earnhardt car owner Richard Childress and drives in the same style as the seven-times NASCAR champion.

"It's really special to have my grandson and the No. 3," Childress said. "We were fast in (pre-season) testing. You keep dreaming and thinking what would it be like to be on the pole."

Recalling the swagger of Earnhardt, rookie Dillon sported a black cowboy hat while posing for pictures with his Daytona 500 pole-winning trophy.

"It's amazing," Dillon said. "It brings momentum into the season showing that RCR (Richard Childress Racing) has speed."

Martin Truex Jr. joined Dillon on the front row for the February 23 race with a lap of 195.852 mph, also in a Chevrolet.

Coincidentally both cars were powered by Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines.   Continued...

Feb 16, 2014; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Car driver Austin Dillon during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports