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Qualifying washout hands Casey Mears pole

A strong run in practice turned into a pole position for this week's Sprint Cup race for sometime start-and-park driver Casey Mears, after storms hit Bristol Motor Speedway.
A heavy thunderstorm sweeping over Bristol Motor Speedway meant that the Sprint Cup drivers were denied the chance to set qualifying laps for Saturday evening's IRWIN Tools Night Race following a qualifying wash-out.

Casey Mears had earlier put in the top time of 15.701s (122.209 mph) during the marathon two hour first practice session on Friday, and was glad that he did as NASCAR rules set the starting grid according to the times from that session, handing Mears his first Cup pole since 2007 at Chicagoland when he was driving for Hendrick Motorsports. He'll start the race alongside Brad Keselowski, who was just six thousands of a second slower than Mears in that first session.

"It's exciting for us, I think it's going to be good. Obviously, starting up front at Bristol period is always a good thing," said Mears after his good fortune was confirmed. "I think it's exciting for our team to be able to have this opportunity to have the first pit selection starting up towards the front. It gives us a big head start from where we've been in the past."

Even though clinching pole position is the result of good luck with the weather, Mears still had to earn it with his practice performance.

"We were pretty embarrassed at how we showed up here last time," he admitted. "We were playing catch-up the first part of this year and to be able to put a little time into it and work at it.

"We unloaded way better than we were here last time," he continued. "Race trim felt pretty good as well and when they switched over to qualifying trim we were 15th to 12th and they made a substantial adjustment in the right direction and we were able to shoot to the top of the board. It's exciting for us. I think it's going to be good.

Mears' team, Germain Racing, has been struggling for both sponsorship as well as form in 2012 and had been a start-and-park entry in previous races, but Mears confirmed that he had the backing to make a full run of it this weekend - especially now he'll start from the front.

"Bristol is one that we're definitely going to run," he said. "We run next weekend in Atlanta, so a good run here would definitely set us off right for a good week next week as well."

The lengthy early practice session had been in order to allow drivers to get used to the changes made to Bristol since the series last visited the circuit, which has seen progressive banking altered to promote close racing, but Mears said that it was too early to tell how the changes would affect the racing grooves available to drivers on Saturday night.


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Casey Mears driving the #13 (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Casey Mears (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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