Aric Almirola claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position as his teammate Marcos Ambrose completed a front row sweep for Richard Petty Motorsports in qualifying for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
Cuban-American Almirola beat the previous benchmark set by last week's All-Star winner Jimmie Johnson, becoming the only driver to break the 28-second barrier with a lap of 27.988 seconds, at an average speed of 192.140mph. Teammate Ambrose, fastest earlier in the day during practice, was the last driver on track going for a flying lap and ended up a couple of tenths short of the leading RPM Ford.
"It's awesome to get my first pole here at home, at Charlotte," said 28-year old Almirola. "We came here for the All-Star race last weekend and we didn't run good enough, we just struggled. This week we came with something totally different and it's paid off, we've got a really fast car."
Almirola's pole for NASCAR's longest race is the 122nd for the No. 43 car, made a NASCAR icon by seven-time champion and current team owner Richard Petty. It is also the first pole for the team since race-winning crew chief Mike Ford joined last month.
Points leader Greg Biffle was fourth fastest ahead of the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas of Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., who rounded out the top five. Hendrick's Kasey Kahne and Stewart-Haas' Ryan Newman were among those who had spells on provisional pole but their times were beaten as the session progressed and the track cooled down into the dusk.
Kurt Busch had been 14th fastest in practice but lost control of his Phoenix Racing Chevrolet on his first flying lap between Turns 1 and 2, and ended up hitting both the outside and inside walls, being forced to a back-up car for Sunday's race.
Danica Patrick, making her third Cup series outing, will start 40th thanks to her team's top-35 status in the owners' standings, as her lap alone would not have been quick enough to put her in the 43-car field.
Wood Brothers' Trevor Bayne was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers setting the 13th-quickest lap, while Mike Bliss, David Reutimann, JJ Yeley and Scott Riggs failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 27.988s
2. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 28.184s + 0.196s
3. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 28.217s + 0.229s
4. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 28.234s + 0.246s
5. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 28.243s + 0.255s
6. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 28.247s + 0.259s
7. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 28.253s + 0.265s
8. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 28.289s + 0.301s
9. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 28.332s + 0.344s
10. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 28.353s + 0.365s
11. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge 28.372s + 0.384s
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 28.376s + 0.388s
13. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 28.381s + 0.393s
14. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 28.391s + 0.403s
15. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 28.392s + 0.404s
16. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 28.413s + 0.425s
17. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 28.416s + 0.428s
18. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 28.423s + 0.435s
19. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 28.465s + 0.477s
20. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 28.480s + 0.492s
21. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 28.485s + 0.497s
22. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 28.493s + 0.505s
23. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 28.560s + 0.572s
24. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 28.591s + 0.603s
25. Casey Mears Germain Ford 28.668s + 0.680s
26. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 28.671s + 0.683s
27. Cole Whitt Turn One Chevrolet 28.674s + 0.686s
28. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 28.692s + 0.704s
29. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.735s + 0.747s
30. David Ragan Front Row Ford 28.776s + 0.788s
31. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.796s + 0.808s
32. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 28.802s + 0.814s
33. Josh Wise Front Row Ford 28.837s + 0.849s
34. Stephen Leicht Little Joe's Chevrolet 28.851s + 0.863s
35. David Stremme Inception Toyota 29.010s + 1.022s
36. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 29.015s + 1.027s
37. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 29.019s + 1.031s
38. Scott Speed Leavine Family Ford 29.036s + 1.048s
39. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 29.062s + 1.074s
40. Danica Patrick Baldwin Chevrolet
41. TJ Bell FAS Lane Ford
42. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet
43. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 29.066s + 1.078s
Did not qualify:
JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota
Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota
David Reutimann BK Toyota
Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet