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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)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet SS, qualified seventh Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Menard is 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS, qualified sixth Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, captured the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan NASCAR Sprint Cup 400 race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates capturing the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, sits in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose lead the field to a restart at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger leads Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose lead the field at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose lead the field to the green flag at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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