While Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards will have the spotlight during Sunday's Ford 400, a pair of up-and-comers stole the show in Friday’s qualifying to lead the field to green at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final race of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
David Reutimann captured his first Coors Light Pole Award, running a lap of 31.462 seconds (171.636 mph) in the No. 44 UPS Toyota. He will be joined on the front row by rookie Scott Speed, who ran a lap of 31.494 seconds (171.461 mph) in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota.
The title contenders in the climax of the Chase for the Sprint Cup will start at opposite ends of the field. Carl Edwards, who enters the finale 106 points behind Johnson, starts fourth (171.418 mph) and had his No. 99 Office Depot Ford atop the pylon for much of the qualifying session. He will be joined on the second row by Matt Kenseth, who will start third (171.429 mph) in the No. 17 DeWalt Ford.
Johnson, seeking his third consecutive Sprint Cup title, qualified 30th (169.252 mph) in the No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet.
On Friday, though, Reutimann and Speed stole the show. It was the first career pole for Reutimann, whose previous best effort for Michael Waltrip Racing was second in the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"This is a great way to start the weekend," said Reutimann, a native of nearby Zephyrhills. "You've got to remember, this is a second year organization. Last year, we were worried about just getting into the races, let alone winning poles. I'm proud of what the guys have accomplished in a very short period of time."
Speed, a 25-year-old veteran of Formula One competition, will make his fifth start in the Sprint Cup Series – with his previous best qualifying effort placing him in the 17th row.
"I didn't get in many laps in practice, so I guess that didn't give us time to mess it up," said Speed. "The car came out – obviously – pretty good, and I was just getting familiar with the track. These Cup cars are a lot different from the trucks.
"I just drove it in the corners, and it stuck," Speed added. "Honestly, no magic. This track has two corners. Sometimes you hit it right, sometimes you don't. My Cup qualifying record is 35th, 34th, 33rd, 40th – and second. This time the car was right."
Rounding out the top 10 qualifiers were Kevin Harvick in fifth, followed by David Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex. Drivers failing to qualify for the race were Ken Schrader and a pair of former open-wheel winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Max Papis and Sam Hornish Jr.