Food City 500: Greg Biffle Grabs the Pole, Continues to Roll in Thunder Valley

David DeNennoContributor IIIMarch 16, 2012

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 16:  Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/811 Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 16, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Greg Biffle is off to the best start of his career, hands down. Prior to 2012, he had never led in the points, but that ended when he left Las Vegas in first place after his third consecutive third-place finish.

Enter Bristol. Having never grabbed a pole at the "World's Fastest Half-Mile," he will indeed be starting up front at the commencement of the Food City 500 according to NASCAR Wire Service.

Though Biffle has had relative success at Bristol Motor Speedway (his average finish of 11.8 is fourth best among active drivers), his season as a whole, up until now, has been an unmitigated success.

On the opposite side of that situation has been A.J. Allmendinger. Expectations were high for him upon the announcement that he would be replacing Kurt Busch in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing.

So far in 2012, he has not made much noise. However, he delivered a surprising clap of thunder in Thunder Valley at qualification by obtaining second place. This was a welcome surprise and, perhaps, it is the impetus that he needs to turn a positive corner on this still-young season.

Rounding out the top 10 in order were Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola, last year's pole winner Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne.

Surprisingly absent from the top 10 starters are the last two winners of the Food City 500, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson. Neither car looked very strong, as Busch needed a nice save to salvage a 12th-place mark and Johnson's car just did not appear to have enough speed. He missed the top 20 and will start 22nd.

While qualifying results should not be taken with a complete grain of salt at Bristol—because it is important—it also should be noted that close to 35 drivers finished within .3 seconds of each other. Avoiding disaster usually trumps pure speed within the tight confines of this track.

Let's go racing, boys. It's Bristol, baby!