WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Patrick Carpentier spent most of Friday night going over and over and over every turn on Watkins Glen International’s seven-turn, 4.06-kilometre road course.
He knew that on Saturday morning he would get only one chance, one lap around the track to put his No. 26 Latitude 43 Racing Ford into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Helluva Good Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.
And to make things more perilous he would come into Saturday’s qualifying session with only one day’s practice.
Carpentier said he was worried he wouldn’t be able to get it done. After all, it had been more than a year between Cup jobs for the 38-year old native of Joliette, Que.
“After practice (Friday), I just sat in the (race) car and visualized the track,” he said. “It’s something that I used to do when I first started racing.
“There was one corner that I kept missing in practice by two or three tenths, so I kept going over it in my mind. And in qualifying we just nailed it.”
In fact in the parlance of NASCAR, he nailed it good. Needing to make the race on speed as the team had no owner points exemption, Carpentier drove the No. 26 Ford through the start-finish line with a speed of 122.635 m.p.h.
That would end up as the 17th fastest of 46 cars attempting to qualify for Sunday’s race. It would be way more than enough for Carpentier to be on the grid when the green flag flies Sunday.
Carl Edwards was a surprise pole winner in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford topping the speed chart at 124.432 m.p.h. It was the first pole for the Missouri native in almost two years.
“They asked me when my last pole was, and I had no clue—it’s been a long time,” Edwards said. “You guys know how much we’ve struggled and how hard things have been. This last month, we’ve been going in the right direction, and it feels good.
Car just fast
Edwards was almost a full second faster than his fastest lap in Friday’s practice which by NASCAR standards is like winning by a mile.
“A couple of people were questioning whether I had made the bus stop (chicane) or not,” Edwards said. “I thought that was pretty funny. With that lap time, I would have said the same thing. I don’t know where we made up the speed. The car is just fast.”
Toronto’s Ron Fellows, who like Carpentier had to qualify his No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet on speed, had his best lap of the weekend when he needed it most — on Saturday.
He managed a lap at 122.339 m.p.h that will see him start 20th on Sunday.
“That was a pretty good lap,” Fellows said afterward. “That’s the best that the car has been all weekend.”
He said that one thing he will have to be careful about on Sunday is the double file restarts that have proven to be potential crash fest so far this NASCAR season.
“The Sprint Cup guys are awfully smart when it comes to the initial start, but in restarts the cars are real aggressive and the drivers are really aggressive. Everybody knows they’ve got to get through the first lap. If we can just continue to work our way forward it’ll just make racing that much easier.”
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 Chevrolet and Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chevrolet will start second and third with speeds of 123.814 m.p.h. and 123.699 m.p.h. respectively.