HAMPTON, Ga. - Greg Biffle won the pole for the Pep Boys Auto 500, but his fellow Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards was the story on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Biffle’s lap at 192.453 mph was good enough to knock Kurt Busch’s lap at 192.426 mph out of the No. 1 starting spot. It was Biffle’s first pole of this season. Dale Jarrett was a surprising third, with Kasey Kahne fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth.
Points leader Jeff Gordon was eighth fastest while Jimmie Johnson, who trails Gordon by 53 points in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, will start sixth.
Edwards ran 189.919, leaving him 16th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
But it was what he did last week at Martinsville that still had the NASCAR tongues wagging.
"I thought, ‘Wow,’” Johnson said of his reaction to video showing Edwards’ post-Martinsville confrontation with Matt Kenseth, punctuated by Edwards drawing back a fist as if to smite his Roush Fenway teammate.
Edwards had apologized on Tuesday, but also said his frustration with Kenseth had been mounting because of team disharmony. He reiterated his remorse on Friday, but also said he feels that people have confused about him and the roots of his issues.
“I am a fierce competitor,” Edwards said. “That’s why I’m here.
“I’ve read some stuff or heard and some people are deeply misunderstanding what’s going on here. When I run well, I’m happy and I’m happy to be here. When things don’t go my way or I feel like someone is trying to take something from me, I’m going to stand up for myself.
“That’s just the way I was raised. That’s the way I am.”
Around the garage, though, it was largely a day for the airing of grievances against the driver of the No. 99 Ford.
“The Carl” seems to not be getting along with some of the other drivers that are over there,” said Kurt Busch, using a nickname for Edwards used by some in the garage.
“He’ll give you that flashy smile, but at the same time he’s got something underneath his breath for you. Now it’s just starting to appear.”
Elliott Sadler said he’s been in the woods of Virginia hunting all week, but that didn’t keep him from weighing in, too.
“Carl Edwards can do a lot of amazing things with a race car,” Sadler said. “A lot of times he's a nice guy, just sometimes he lets his emotions get the best of him. I think as he matures, gets older and understands the sport a little more, I think that will calm down a little bit. (But) I don't really believe in the ‘aw shucks’ attitude either.”
Kenseth, who in a twist of irony ran the exact same speed as Edwards in Friday’s qualifying, wasn’t exactly in a mood to make nice, either.
“First of all, I’m not the biggest guy in the world and I was glad I didn’t get my butt kicked,” said Kenseth, who said he doesn’t agree with Edwards that Roush Fenway Racing has communication issues that need to be worked on.
“I think that he’s probably got more stuff to work through than maybe I do.”
Kenseth said Edwards called him on Monday, but Kenseth did not return the call. Biffle and Jamie McMurray, two other teammates, have taken Kenseth’s side, but team owner Jack Roush said he has not and most likely won’t call a meeting to settle things.
“Certainly, Carl realizes that he wasn’t a friend to Matt, and Matt, I think, is anxious to have Carl get some relief from the dilemma he finds himself in,” Roush said. “We’re working our way through the aftermath of the conflict that was regrettable.”
Edwards said he has learned some things this week.
“I have learned that people don’t always understand what’s really happening,” Edwards said. “I can say I really learned how people felt about me, which is nice. “I’ve learned this week that a lot of people don’t mind walking around feeling a certain way about you and don’t say how they feel until it’s popular to say it.”
Jarrett’s third fastest lap at 191.655 mph was by far his best qualifying performance of the year.
“I think we just took over from Appalachian State over Michigan as the biggest upset of the year,” joked Jarrett, who had qualified for only 21 of the season’s first 32 races.
“It was just a perfect race car.”
Jarrett’s team owner, Michael Waltrip, also made it in his No. 55 Toyota. But David Reutimann was bumped from the field along with Burney Lamar, Sam Hornish Jr., Ward Burton and Mike Skinner.