NASCAR Stewart gets first career pole at Daytona
Kerry Earnhardt qualified 10th, while Dale Jr. will start 39th.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It was supposed to be easier for Kasey Kahne after he won his first Nextel Cup race at Richmond International Raceway on May 14.
But in the five races following that win, Kahne has endured a historically frustrating stretch that blunted any momentum his Evernham Motorsports team might have gathered.
Kahne tries to turn things around tonight in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, where Tony Stewart won the pole Friday with a lap at 185.582 mph.
Stewart, coming off his victory last week on the road course at Infineon Raceway, got his first career Daytona pole and his first pole anywhere since July 11, 2003, at Chicagoland by outrunning three Chevrolets owned by MB2/MBV Motorsports.
Scott Riggs will be outside of Stewart on Row1, with teammates Said and Nemechek behind No.3 starter Jimmie Johnson.
Friday's other major story in qualifying was that Kerry Earnhardt qualified 10th fastest in a car owned by Richard Childress, and his half-brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will start 39th.
Kahne to start 19th
Kahne will start 19th as he looks to get his season back on track.
"We finally won and thought we'd win again soon," Kahne said. "We thought everything was perfect at Richmond, so why wouldn't it be perfect the next weekend? It's been a lot tougher than that."
And how. In the past 26 years, nobody has had it tougher.
Second win is tougher
Of 52 drivers who've earned their first career Cup victories since 1980, Kahne has the worst average finish over the next five races at 29.4. Greg Sacks had been at the bottom of that list, averaging 29th in the five races after his only win at Daytona in July 1985.
Kahne comes now to Daytona, a track where he's never had a top-20 Cup finish, trying to beat those odds.
"It takes time and a lot of work to get consistent," he said. "We haven't been real consistent, but I think we'll get there. I expect things to get better."
Whenever a driver gets his first victory, he's almost always asked if that will make it easier to get the next one. The driver, of course, almost always thinks it will. But history shows that is not necessarily so.
Of those 52 first-time winners since Dale Earnhardt's first victory on March 16, 1980, 41 have also won at least one more race.
Nobody since 1980 got his first two victories in successive races. Davey Allison came closest, winning at Talladega in 1987 and then, after a 16th at Charlotte, winning again at Dover.
Ward Burton had the longest interval of 113 races between his first two victories. The average number of races between first and second wins is 33.
Jarrett had long wait
Dale Jarrett, who starts 13th on Saturday night, fits relatively close to that average. There were 39 races between his first win at Michigan in 1991 and the 1993 Daytona 500.
"I've always said that if you're looking to win three races in a season, you have to legitimately put yourself in a position to win 12 times," Jarrett said.
"I don't think you're going to win but about one out of every four times you can get into position, because you get outrun or you make the wrong pit call or something. Unless you have everything put together, you're not going to win, and that's hard to do. It's hard to do that."
Tommy Baldwin, Kahne's crew chief, agrees.
"Kasey and I just want to get back to racing hard and running well and winning," he said.
"We know we are capable of that, we just need to find our way back to being successful. You become frustrated because you know are capable of doing better, but you can't seem to get back to that point."
Stretch has been taxing
Kahne said that while he and Baldwin are still working well together, the tough stretch since the win at Richmond has been taxing.
"We've had some ups and downs with cars and things that have went on," Kahne said. "But it's just a matter of racing better. When you're not racing as good as everyone feels like we should be doing, it's not just the crew chief and the driver, but you have the whole team down."
And trying to get back up.