Dale Junior flirts with pole before Stenhouse steal show at Talladega

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) walks around in the garage during practice for the Camping World 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Friday, May 5, 2017, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — The farewell tour for Dale Earnhardt Jr. has officially started.

All eyes are on NASCAR’s favorite son as he races Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, a place where he’s adored by the fans and expected to win every time he gets in his Chevrolet.

The crowd roared Saturday in qualifying when he shot to the top of the board, but it was short-lived. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the last car to qualify and bumped Earnhardt to second.

Earnhardt leads all active drivers at Talladega with six wins, but has never started from the pole.

“I’m pretty happy,” Earnhardt said. “Great lap by Stenhouse and the Roush crew. Would have liked that pole.”

Earnhardt announced last week he’s retiring at the end of the season.

Stenhouse didn’t mind spoiling the Talladega party with his first pole in four years.

“It will be nice to lead the field to the green here,” Stenhouse said. “It’s a cool way to start the weekend.”