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Montoya surprised by pole at Pocono

"It was a little bit looser than yesterday," Menard said of how things felt in the backup car on Saturday for qualifying. "It didn't feel like the track had, it just didn't feel grippy. I'm sure the track was cooler and had more grip. The car felt a little more out of the track than yesterday. I don't know it will be decent for everything that the guys went through they busted their butts and got the back-up car ready [but] I think we will be okay."

ALongside Menard on the grid will be fellow Chevrolet runner Kasey Kahne. “It was pretty good," he said of the car. "The Farmers Insurance Chevy was balanced really well. I was bouncing a little bit through the tunnel turn, I got a little tight because of that. I had good grip around the whole track and it was a fairly easy lap. The car had a lot of grip hopefully it will be the same tomorrow."

The third row will see Richard Petty Motorsports' Marcos Ambrose lining up alongside Kurt Busch in the Phoenix Racing #51.

"It is hard you only have one lap," said Ambrose. "We struggled a little bit and made some changes. I was pretty free in turn one and lost all my time there. I feel like I got the rest of the lap pretty good ... This place is definitely a challenge. It's a tough track to get a handle on."

"Pocono is the kind of place where drivers either love it or hate it," agreed Busch. "You have to compromise a lot here. You just can't be dialed-in for one corner; you've got to keep all three in mind. It's kind of like a Phoenix or a Darlington."

Kurt Busch is one of only four drivers at Pocono - the others being Joe Nemecheck, Mike Bliss and Penske Racing's Sam Hornish Jr. - to be attempting to do double duty in both the Cup race in Pennsylvania and the US Cellular 250 Nationwide Series race over in Iowa on Saturday evening, making it a frenzied 24 hours of commuting back and forth.

"I'm waiting on a couple of other racers, they're going to do their qualifying laps and then we're headed to Iowa," he said. "We have plenty of time today. We're going to drive to the airport and then fly into Newton and we're going to qualify the car and give it a great race tonight. And today, it doesn't matter how good or how bad we do.

"Today's my birthday, so it's going to be just fine," he said with a grin.

But the biggest smiles of all on pit road after qualifying were undoubtedly to be found around the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing pit stall and hauler, and understandably so.

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

Now the big question is whether Montoya can convert the pole position to a strong race finish on Sunday afternoon or perhaps even a much-needed win to help the team develop some momentum going into the second half of the Sprint Cup season, even if a spot in the Chase is perhaps too much to even dream about.

“Yeah, it's not so much momentum, but its work. We've really got to keep working; keep working on the cars and keep understanding what we need to do," explained Montoya. "It's how do you put everything together; and we've been doing a really good job at it. So, we'll see."




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)
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