Updated: Kyle Busch wonders if there’s a conspiracy theory to put 88 and 3 on Daytona 500 front row

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Update: Kyle Busch’s belief in a conspiracy theory to put the 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 3 of Austin Dillon was half right. Dillon earns the pole, with a surprising effort that puts Martin Truex Jr. on the outside pole. Meanwhile, after sitting atop the speed charts for much of the session, Earnhardt fell to just seventh-fastest in his qualifying effort.

Whether you like him or not, Kyle Busch is never afraid to speak his mind — and did he ever during front row qualifying Sunday for next Sunday’s 56th Daytona 500.

When asked by Fox Sports anchor Chris Myers whether he thought Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s early pole-setting speed of 195.211 mph was going to hold up, Kyle Busch was … well, Kyle Busch.

“I don’t know, you know,” Busch said. “People do believe in conspiracy theories and whether the 88 and the 3 (driven by rookie Austin Dillon) are going to sit on the front row together, who’s going to be the pole sitter, we’re not sure. We’ll find out.”

“Oh boy,” Myers said with an uncomfortable laugh. “We haven’t even gone there but we know exactly what he’s talking about, don’t we?”

To which analyst and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip remarked, “I’ve heard that.”

Later in the broadcast, analyst Jeff Hammond caught up with Dillon and asked “Looking up at that leaderboard, how cool would it be to have that No. 3 alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. in that No. 88?”

With teammates Ryan Newman still to make his qualifying run and Paul Menard being second to Earnhardt on the speed charts, Dillon replied, “I think it would be really special, but hopefully the RCR cars can take over the front row, for sure. That’d be cool. I’ve got Newman right here with me and Paul’s in second. It would be really special, though. … Our Dow Chevrolet’s fast. Hopefully we can put it where it deserves.”

As it turned out, though, the 88 and 3 will not be on the front row. Greg Biffle spoiled those plans with his qualifying effort, knocking Earnhardt off the pole with a very stout speed of 195.818 mph. Martin Truex Jr. then knocked Biffle off the front row, making it Dillon and Truex at the head of the pack for next Sunday’s Daytona 500.

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Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org