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Montoya surprise pole winner at Pocono

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Saturday, August 04, 2012

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A happy Juan Montoya
Benefitting from an early draw and aided by cloud cover that burned off as Saturday's qualifying session progressed, Juan Montoya was the surprise winner of the pole for Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

Montoya turned a lap at the 2.5-mile triangular track in 51.124 seconds (176.043 mph) and waited as the fastest cars from Friday's first practice session failed to unseat him from the top spot.

The Coors Light pole award was the Colombian driver's first of the season, his first at Pocono and the eighth of his career.

"To be honest with you, I'm not sure if I'm more shocked that we're on the pole right now -- with how the last few races have been for us and how our season's been -- or that we're on the pole at Pocono," Montoya said. "This is a place where I normally struggle in qualifying" (unless the grid is computer generated).

Early qualifiers also filled the second and third spots, with Denny Hamlin (175.795 mph) claiming the second starting spot and Paul Menard (175.627 mph) the third. Menard posted his lap in a backup car, after his primary car was wrecked beyond repair during Friday's practice.

Kasey Kahne (175.439 mph) will start fourth in the 21st Sprint Cup Series race of the season, followed by Marcos Ambrose (175.432 mph) and Kurt Busch (175.339 mph).

Montoya was the 16th driver to make a qualifying attempt. Menard and Hamlin followed before the sun began to heat the track in earnest. But Montoya was happy for any good fortune during a season that has produced just two top-10s in 20 races for the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet.

"This is a big boost for everybody on the Target team," Montoya said. "We really needed a little bit of light. We know we've been working in the right direction. We know we've been working hard, and we feel that the cars are getting a little better, but to actually get out there and get a pole . . .

"I just went through the hauler, and all the engineers are happy, laughing. I've seen a lot of long faces and a lot of stressful faces -- we really needed something like this as a company."

Montoya's early draw was calculated. He deliberately did not post a fast speed in Friday's first practice, during which the qualifying order is set, slowest first to fastest last. The team looked at the weather forecast and determined to take an early draw if rain wasn't likely.

"It's the right call," Montoya said. "Do we have the fastest car out there? No, but qualifying is the same as racing -- you've just got to make the right call and do whatever it takes to get it done, and that's what we did."

Results

POS CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 176.043 51.124 Leader
2 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 175.795 51.196 -0.072
3 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Serta 175.627 51.245 -0.121
4 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 175.439 51.300 -0.176
5 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 175.432 51.302 -0.178
6 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services 175.339 51.329 -0.205
7 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Zest 175.169 51.379 -0.255
8 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / AMP Energy / National Guard 175.131 51.390 -0.266
9 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation / Quicken Loans 175.097 51.400 -0.276
10 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 175.067 51.409 -0.285
11 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 175.036 51.418 -0.294
12 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 174.964 51.439 -0.315
13 43 Aric Almirola Ford Automotive Lift Institute 174.805 51.486 -0.362
14 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 174.795 51.489 -0.365
15 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 174.618 51.541 -0.417
16 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate 174.561 51.558 -0.434
17 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 174.432 51.596 -0.472
18 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 174.419 51.600 -0.476
19 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 174.314 51.631 -0.507
20 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 174.277 51.642 -0.518
21 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 174.213 51.661 -0.537
22 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 174.162 51.676 -0.552
23 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Enersys / Odyssey Battery 173.920 51.748 -0.624
24 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet TMone.com 173.571 51.852 -0.728
25 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 173.524 51.866 -0.742
26 38 David Gilliland Ford ModSpace 173.410 51.900 -0.776
27 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 173.300 51.933 -0.809
28 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot "Back to School" 173.197 51.964 -0.840
29 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 172.864 52.064 -0.940
30 119 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 172.619 52.138 -1.014
31 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 172.371 52.213 -1.089
32 34 David Ragan Ford Taco Bell 172.038 52.314 -1.190
33 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 171.917 52.351 -1.227
34 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 171.913 52.352 -1.228
35 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Max Q Motorsports 171.808 52.384 -1.260
36 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 171.638 52.436 -1.312
37 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 171.246 52.556 -1.432
38 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 170.804 52.692 -1.568
39 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Scott Products 170.658 52.737 -1.613
40 191 Reed Sorenson Ford Plinker Tactical 170.581 52.761 -1.637
41 32 Jason White+ Ford Zaxby's 167.876 53.611 -2.487
42 36 Tony Raines+ Chevrolet @TMone / CRM Hiring Veterans - - -
43 98 Mike Skinner Ford TRAQM.com 170.516 52.781 -1.657
DNQ 33 Stephen Leicht* Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 170.487 52.790 -1.666

+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie

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