21 April 2012
NASCAR » Allmendinger on pole for Penske at Kansas
Penske Racing's AJ Allmendinger will start this weekend's Sprint Cup race from pole position at Kansas Speedway, with Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick alongside him.
AJ Allmendinger claimed his first Sprint Cup pole position since his switch to Penske Racing to replace Kurt Busch at the start of the year, with a late qualifying lap of 30.683s (175.993mph) putting him 0.043s ahead of Kevin Harvick.
"I didn't think that the lap was amazing, it was okay," said Allmendinger after setting his time on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval. "When Todd [Gordon, crew chief] told me the lap time, I was shocked by it!"
Allmendinger said it was proof that the team was coming together after the upset of Busch's departure from the team over the close-season.
"Every step we're getting closer. Todd Gordon and I are gelling together as driver-crew chief. The whole team is gelling," he said. "More than anything, I just love being a part of this race team. I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders to go out there and win races, win poles for these guys, because they're so used to it."
Happy as he was with pole position, Allmendinger knew that it was only one stop on the way to real success - a race victory.
"The important day is tomorrow, but today we're the best. That's all that matters," he said. "To get a pole like this and get in the  Shootout and just keep building the momentum, it's a big deal today."
Starting alongside him on the front row, Kevin Harvick was ruing a small mistake that probably cost him the top spot.
"All in all I probably got a little excited getting into turn three and over drove the car a little bit. That probably, in hindsight cost us the pole," he said. "All in all it's been a great year qualifying wise for us so far. The cars have been fast every week. As soon as we put together the whole weekend without me making a mistake or things not going exactly right. I think everything is going to come together nicely."
The second row was a lock-out for the Joe Gibbs Racing team on Saturday, with Joey Logano setting the third fastest time alongside his team mate Denny Hamlin. However, an engine change will mean that Logano will be sent to the back before the green flag on Sunday afternoon; meanwhile the third member of the JGR stable, Kyle Busch, will start from a disappointing 25th place.
Mark Martin continued to revel in his part-time status in the Michael Waltrip Racing #55 car, starting from the third row alongside team mate Martin Truex Jr., with the third member of the MWR team Clint Bowyer on the fourth row alongside Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"We weren't very good in practice so we made a lot of changes to the car and the car drove really, really good in our qualifying run. So that was a personal victory for the team, I think," said Earnhardt, admitting that his qualifying form had initially been so poor that he'd had to crib notes off of Jimmie Johnson to get into shape for the session.
Johnson had topped both of the earlier Cup practice sessions but could only manage 15th place in qualifying himself.
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