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Montoya surprised by pole at Pocono

Juan Montoya claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position in over a year, with a lap of 51.124s (176.043mph) at the unique 2.5-mile three-corner Pocono Raceway.
The only time that Juan Montoya has looked quite this hot in 2012 was when he escaped disaster after hitting the back of a jet dryer at Daytona in February, so it was something of a surprise to see him celebrating his first pole position since April 2011 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday.

That's not being unkind to the former F1 driver: he was as stunned as anyone, as he freely admitted after the qualifying session.

"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," said Montoya. "This is a place where I normally struggle in qualifying."

The team had played a strategic joker by 'sandbagging' in the first practice session on Friday, which meant they got an early qualifying run on Saturday when they calculated that the cooler weather conditions would be at their optimum and that later runners would struggle on the slippery surface as it heated up.

"Qualifying is the same as racing,"explained Montoya of the thinking that the team had done. "You've just got to make the right call and do whatever it takes to get it done, and that's what we did."

Montoya will be joined on the front row of the grid for the Pennsylvania 400 on Sunday afternoon by Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, who was just 0.072s off Montoya's pole time of 51.124s (176.043mph) after having looked at one stage like he was going to overhaul the Colombian's time by a big margin.

"I'd like to say it was a good run, but just a little bit disappointed," he said. "Knowing we were over a quarter-second ahead going into the last corner, [but] just missed it and our car was just way too loose. Missed the lap a little bit, but still we were very fortunate to end up where we were and at least now we will have a good starting spot."

Hamlin was also still on cloud nine after the announcement on Friday that he and his girlfriend Jordan Fish were expecting a baby, due in January. "It's been a long time coming," said Hamlin of the news. "It's going to be exciting to be a dad ... Everything works great, things happen and we're excited about the timing. It's going to be in January, so it's the offseason, so all of that seems to be aligning perfectly for us."

Third position in qualifying went to Paul Menard, who was almost as startled by his good fortune as Montoya had been with gaining pole position. Menard's weekend at Pocono had got off to a horror start in the first practice session on Friday when he'd got loose and crashed the #27 car, and a subsequent fire had meant he was forced to take to his his backup car for the rest of the weekend.




Related Pictures

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Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award and Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennslyvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Juan Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennslyvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, races during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet, talks to his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, on the grid prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Comcast Business Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet SS, qualifies for ninth position Friday, April 17, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Menard is 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eighth position Friday, April 17, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Kahne is fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, April 17, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is 21st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, April 17, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 11, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses after winning the Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, poses after winning the Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 AXE Chevrolet, goes through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, goes through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

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