NASCAR legend Bill Elliott serves as fill-in spotter for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Phoenix

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It doesn’t get much better than this.

When Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed a fill-in spotter for Friday’s practice and qualifying, as well as Saturday’s practice at Phoenix International Raceway, he couldn’t have picked a better candidate with impeccable credentials.

With Bill Elliott also at PIR to help and serve as spotter for son Chase in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, Earnhardt asked Awesome Bill from Dawsonville if he’d be his spotter, as well.

Let’s see, a former Sprint Cup champion, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and the only driver who has more Most Popular Driver trophies (16) than Earnhardt (11) – yep, it was a no-brainer for Earnhardt.

And it was a no-brainer for Elliott, who promptly accepted the invitation.

Earnhardt’s usual spotter, TJ Majors, was unable to make the trip due to an intestinal infection, so Earnhardt didn’t have to look far for a replacement, especially since Chase Elliott drives for the Earnhardt-owned JR Motorsports’ Nationwide Series team.

Talking to the NASCAR Wire Service before Friday’s first practice, Earnhardt was excited to have Elliott atop the spotter’s stand at PIR.

“It’s going to be a difficult situation not having (Majors), but we’ve got Bill Elliott, of all people, (who) is going to fill in during practice,” Earnhardt said. “That’s going to be pretty awesome.

“A lot of Most Popular Driver awards right there, like 27, or something like that. It’ll be interesting going through knockout qualifying, me and Bill both for the first time.”

The combination clicked right from the get-go: In their first practice together, Elliott helped pace Earnhardt to the fastest speed of the session with a best lap of 138.723 mph.

Then with Elliott giving him more great directions, Earnhardt did very well in NASCAR’s new qualifying procedures, earning the fifth starting spot for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Because he’ll be flying back home with his son after Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, Bill Elliott will not be on the spotter’s stand on Sunday. Jeff Dickerson, who has filled in for Majors in the past, will assume those duties.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.