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Austin Dillon wins pole for today’s Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona

Alert Today Florida 300 - Prac

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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Former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Dillon has won the pole for the series’ season opener this afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

Dillon, who is starting his second full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series but will also run the majority of this year’s Xfinity races, captured his 11th career pole in NASCAR’s junior league.

“Luckily, I was 12th [to start] that last group and was kind of staying back, watching how things played out,” Dillon told Fox Sports1. “I didn’t want to be the last car because I knew if there was too much of a gap, we wouldn’t make it around [to start a timed lap]. But it worked out. ... Hopefully, we’ll have some fun in this Xfinity race.”

A big surprise next to Dillon on the front row is Justin Marks, who took the No. 29 RAB Racing Toyota to second on the grid - the best starting position that he’s ever had in Xfinity competition. Marks will try to improve upon his best career Xfinity finish, a sixth last season on the road course at Mid-Ohio.

Chad Boat and Brendan Gaughan will make up the second row for the Alert Today Florida 300, followed by Aric Almirola and Eric Jones in Row 3. Dakoda Armstrong and Ryan Reed are in Row 4, and Row 5 features J.J. Yeley and Chris Buescher.

Defending race winner Regan Smith rolls off 12th alongside Elliott Sadler in Row 6, while Smith’s JR Motorsports teammate and reigning Xfinity Series champion, Chase Elliott, failed to get out of the first round and will start back in 35th.

The first round was slowed by a six-car crash in the second of four groups and then a subsequent brief rain shower. The crash was triggered by contact between Blake Koch and Daniel Suarez, and ended up collecting Landon Cassill, Carlos Contreras, Tanner Berryhill, and Harrison Rhodes as well.

As a result, Rhodes, Contreras, and Berryhill were among the seven drivers that failed to make today’s 120-lap race. Also going home are Scott Lagasse Jr., former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, Bobby Gerhart, and Joe Nemechek.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was part of Group 2 in the first round and avoided the crash when it took place. But he had a slower time as a result and will start last on the grid - 40th - using the champion’s provisional (he won the Xfinity Series titles in 1998 and 1999).

Earnhardt took it in stride, joking about it with a pair of tweets:

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Alert Today Florida 300
Starting Lineup

Row 1: Austin Dillon, Justin Marks
Row 2: Chad Boat, Brendan Gaughan
Row 3: Aric Almirola, Erik Jones
Row 4: Dakoda Armstrong, Ryan Reed
Row 5: J.J. Yeley, Chris Buescher
Row 6: Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith
Row 7: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Brad Keselowski
Row 8: Brian Scott, Ryan Sieg
Row 9: Cale Conley, David Starr
Row 10: Mike Harmon, Chris Cockrum
Row 11: Ross Chastain, Jeff Green
Row 12: Jeremy Clements, Josh Reaume
Row 13: Eric McClure, Joey Gase
Row 14: Kyle Larson, Darrell Wallace Jr.
Row 15: John Wes Townley, Dexter Bean
Row 16: Mike Wallace, Kyle Busch
Row 17: Derek White, Ty Dillon
Row 18: Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez
Row 19: Mario Gosselin, Blake Koch
Row 20: Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Failed to Qualify
Harrison Rhodes, Carlos Contreras, Tanner Berryhill, Scott Lagasse Jr., Derrike Cope, Bobby Gerhart, Joe Nemechek

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