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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)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, burn out as Crafton celebrates winning the series championship and Wallace celebrates winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship in Victory Lane with the trophy, NASCAR President Mike Helton and sportscaster Krista Voda during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and placing ninth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and his daughter Elladee take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th 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, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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