Kurt Busch claimed his second consecutive pole position of the year and the third in a row for Penske Racing in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono.
Despite having crashed his primary car during the final practice session on Friday after losing control at Turn 2, the former Cup champion surprised with an impressive flying lap of 52.452 seconds, at an average speed of 171.579 mph, that allowed him to bump four-time Pocono winner Jeff Gordon from pole position.
Busch was the 40th car in the order on the first weekend of a tweaked qualifying system, the running order now determined by the inverted results of the first practice session of the weekend, including both the top 35 in the owners' standings and those having to qualify on speed. Those who were faster than the Penske driver in practice were unable to match him for pace later on their flying laps, with Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard coming closest while placing beside Busch on the front row of the grid.
"If it was raining we'd be starting last and luckily the weather held up and we're up on pole," said Busch. "To pull that back-up [car] out, that's a pole-winning car! That's something you wouldn't really hear about back in the day. It would be 'alright, you're going to have to struggle through the weekend, it's not the best of pieces.' It's great that we have that higher quality-control within our system.
"Yesterday, honestly, I missed my shift point and it got me into trouble. I was trying different things, changing the rear gear, changing the transmission, and just being in a different zone of elements of changes... Today, we went right back after it and I was aggressive and I used the same procedure as I did yesterday at practice where I wrecked to get the pole today."
The drivers with the best Pocono records will start from the second row of the grid with Gordon and Denny Hamlin starting third and fourth, while Furniture Row's Regan Smith, who held provisional pole for a while, rounded out the top five ahead of points leader Carl Edwards.
Mike Skinner crashed on his second qualifying lap after losing control out of Turn 1 and ended up missing the race. JJ Yeley was fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 22nd, while Sam Hornish Jr was 26th on his Cup return for Front Row Motorsports.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 52.454s
2. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 52.502s + 0.048s
3. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 52.524s + 0.070s
4. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 52.578s + 0.124s
5. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 52.581s + 0.127s
6. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 52.614s + 0.160s
7. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 52.682s + 0.228s
8. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 52.776s + 0.322s
9. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 52.833s + 0.379s
10. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 52.879s + 0.425s
11. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 52.886s + 0.432s
12. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 52.902s + 0.448s
13. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 52.970s + 0.516s
14. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 52.981s + 0.527s
15. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 52.986s + 0.532s
16. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 53.034s + 0.580s
17. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 53.044s + 0.590s
18. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 53.064s + 0.610s
19. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 53.091s + 0.637s
20. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 53.097s + 0.643s
21. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 53.114s + 0.660s
22. JJ Yeley Whitney Chevrolet 53.115s + 0.661s
23. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 53.116s + 0.662s
24. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 53.138s + 0.684s
25. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 53.158s + 0.704s
26. Sam Hornish Jr Front Row Ford 53.167s + 0.713s
27. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 53.184s + 0.730s
28. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 53.199s + 0.745s
29. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 53.201s + 0.747s
30. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 53.217s + 0.763s
31. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 53.219s + 0.765s
32. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 53.228s + 0.774s
33. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 53.276s + 0.822s
34. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 53.289s + 0.835s
35. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 53.360s + 0.906s
36. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 53.502s + 1.048s
37. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 53.644s + 1.190s
38. Tony Raines Front Row Ford 53.765s + 1.311s
39. Scott Riggs Whitney Chevrolet 53.807s + 1.353s
40. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 53.874s + 1.420s
41. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 53.935s + 1.481s
42. Scott Wimmer Gordon Dodge 55.414s + 2.960s
43. TJ Bell LTD Toyota 54.011s + 1.557s
Did not qualify:
Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 54.578s + 2.124s