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Larson wins first Sprint Cup pole at Pocono

Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Kyle Larson clinched his first pole position in Sprint Cup competition at Pocono Raceway on Friday afternoon.
CLICK: Full qualifying times from Pocono Raceway

The unique Pocono Raceway tri-oval is known to one and all as the "tricky triangle" because of how difficult it can be to master, but it seems to suit Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson down to the ground.

The 22-year old rookie from California clinched his maiden pole position in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition with a lap of 49.063s (183.438mph) on the 2.5-mile speedway, a new Cup qualifying track record for Pocono eclipsing the previous best lap of 181.415mph (49.610s) set by Denny Hamlin in June.

"To get a pole here, my first real pole feels great," said Larson, who previously started from the front earlier this year at Richmond when qualifying was rained out and the starting order set by practice times. "There is no other race track like [Pocono], it's fun because you get to shift and hit your marks, it's difficult.

"I'm glad I could win the pole it feels great," added Larson, who took over from Juan Pablo Montoya in the Ganassi team at the start of the season. "Hopefully, we can get our first career win this weekend too in the #42 Target Chevy."

Larson's time was just eight thousandths of a second faster than Penske's Joey Logano, who had been quickest in both of the previous rounds of qualifying and who seemed to be set for pole position until Larson laid down his own single lap effort.

"I thought it would be Joey too, those Penske cars are fast every weekend," admitted Larson. "I had butterflies in that last round. I knew we had a shot at the pole after the second round. I was nervous and I hit all three corners about as good as I could, so I was really excited about that.

"Thanks to Target and everybody at the shop," he added. "They're making the cars faster and faster every week and we're getting better and better.I really think a win is coming soon maybe before the Chase starts. It's really exciting."

Logano was understandably disappointed to miss out on what would have been his second pole position fo the season.

"Anytime you win the first two sessions you feel pretty good about what you're gonna have in the third and ran the third session really hard," he said. "I felt like we nailed the setup, nailed the balance. I felt like I actually nailed the lap on all three corners and I was pretty confident – really, really confident that that was gonna be the pole and we got beat, so that's frustrating.

"It's our sixth front row start this year which is good," he added, looking on the bright side. "But there's only one pole out of that so second sucks. It's still something to be proud of. We've made the final session in each qualifying session besides the superspeedways, so any track that handling comes into we've made the final session. We're very proud of that with all of Team Penske."

Penske also managed to put their second car into third position, meaning that Brad Keselowski will line up alongside Stewart-Haas Racing's Kurt Busch for the start of Sunday afternoon's GoBowling.com 400.

"Third is a respectable effort," said Keselowski. "You certainly always want the pole, but we can be proud of where we're at. I had to make a second run there in the second session, which probably took us away from having a legitimate shot to run with Kyle. He put up a heck of a lap and so did my teammate, Joey Logano, but it was a strong effort. Like I said, we can win from third and we're happy with that so we'll move on."

"It was a good day," contributed a satisfied Busch. "We were in position to get a pole. We had speed in practice and all the way through our three runs. We picked up time in our final run and we need to do more of that. We picked up speed on that last outing, but it just wasn't enough. Guys beat us today and we ended up fourth. The car was just really good though. Let's just make sure we have that balance after the happy hour tomorrow."

Last week's race winner Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsport) will start from the third row alongside Busch's team mate Kevin Harvick, while row four is taken up by Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Larson's team mate Jamie McMurray. Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt Jr. is on row five alongside a third member of the SHR line-up, Danica Patrick, while Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne also made it through to the final top 12 round of qualifying.

Just falling short of making it through were Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer, with Brian Vickers qualifying in 15th place just ahead of SHR team co-owner Tony Stewart in 16th. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth share row 9.

Disappointed to be eliminated in the first round of qualifying were Roush Fenway Racing team mates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards and Richard Petty Motorsports pair Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola.

Edwards - who last week confirmed he is leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season - ended up scraping the wall in turn 2 and then bouncing through the infield grass before he could finally get to the the access lane, leaving the #99 with damage that the team hopes to be able to repair overnight without forcing them to switch to the backup car, which would mean starting from the back of the grid for the race.

With 43 cars entered for this week's race, everyone qualified for the grid.

See full qualifying times from Pocono Raceway



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