TALLADEGA, AL - Veteran NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards will sit on the front row for the running of the Aaron's 312 Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, but they will be followed in the starting lineup by several new faces.
Harvick won the pole during Friday's qualifying with a fast lap of 187.375 mph, easily topping Edwards' second-place effort of 185.754. The two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers also are regulars on the Nationwide circuit, with a combined total of 426 starts and four championships in the series.
That experience stands in stark contrast to the drivers who will start directly behind them in the second row. Nationwide Series rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the third-best qualifying run with a speed of 185.176, while ARCA points leader Steve Arpin qualified fourth (185.140) in his Nationwide debut.
Another relative newcomer to the Nationwide Series, Shelby Howard, qualified fifth (185.115), followed by Reed Sorenson in sixth (184.990), Jason Leffler seventh (184.826), Paul Menard eighth (184.704), Nationwide rookie Parker Kligerman ninth (184.697) and Brian Keselowski 10th (184.665).
Nationwide Series points leader Kyle Busch, who has won the past two NNS races and three of the first seven this season, qualified 11th. Other Sprint Cup regulars in the field include Clint Bowyer (starting 14th), Joey Logano (15th), Brian Vickers (25th) and Jamie McMurray (26th).
This is the first Nationwide pole of the season for Harvick, who has won two races and is in third place in the point standings.
"We ran really well at Daytona (finishing third), and hopefully that correlates to this particular race track," Harvick said. "Everything has gone well so far and we're looking forward to continuing that this weekend.
"I like the plate racing and enjoy this style of racing at this particular race track. It's a lot of fun. We've always run well here and I don't look for anything to be any different this weekend."
While Harvick knows what to expect at Talladega, the race will be a learning experience for both Stenhouse and Arpin. And they know they have several good teachers around them in the field.
"I like having so many Cup guys (in the race)," Stenhouse said. "You can really learn a lot from them, especially here, where everybody is so close. You can learn what they do with their car, how they put it in position to be there at the end. You just learn all race, and then try to take everything you learned from them and use it against them at the end."
"I have a lot of learning to do, and this is a great opportunity for me," Arpin said. "We're going to go out there and watch and learn and see what they're doing. See what kind of moves they make. Hopefully we'll be there for a good competitive finish at the end."
Driver introductions for the Aaron's 312 are set to begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with the race scheduled for 2 p.m.