Juan Pablo Montoya claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup series pole position in qualifying for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The Colombian set a time of 50.890 seconds on his second qualifying lap with an average speed of 188.171 mph, beating the previous benchmark set by Sam Hornish Jr. to become only the third foreign-born driver ever to claim a pole position in the series.
Montoya had only run 14 laps during practice on Friday, electing to save his car for the race while working mainly on race-trim, but despite that he was able to make it two-for-two in qualifying this year for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing at restrictor plate tracks. His teammate Martin Truex Jr, who had won pole position for the Daytona 500, will start the race from third place.
"Getting this pole is pretty cool," said Montoya, who had not taken pole position for a major race since the 2005 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix. "Last year we had one and it got taken away (at Kansas), so it's exciting to be here. You look at this year for us and we're definitely heading in the right direction. I think there's a lot of potential for us to make the Chase and it's encouraging.
"This is one of those places were it's not only driver but it's the team and the car performance. There's been two restrictor-plate races and on both Earnhardt Gansassi cars have been on pole, so hopefully we can translate that into a win here."
Greg Biffle came closest to beating Montoya's time late in the session but he couldn't just match the Colombian's speed, although he was able to prevent an EGR front row sweep for Sunday's race.
"I'm really excited about the lap," Biffle said. "The last time we had a restrictor plate car this good was 2004 at the Daytona 500. The thing about it is we're basically qualifying in race trim, so I feel good about the race tomorrow."
Truex Jr. will share the second row of the grid with Hornish Jr., who had the best qualifying result of his Sprint Cup career, while Clint Bowyer made it three Chevy Earnhardt Childress Racing engines in the top five.
"It was a good lap for us," said Hornish. "What we're doing here as drivers doesn't compare at all to what the team has done to prepare our Penske racecars. We felt that we were a little bit off at Daytona and all the guys dug in and worked hard to bring us a fast race car here in Talladega."
Regan Smith, who crossed the finish-line first at Talladega last autumn but was stripped of victory for passing under the yellow line, qualified sixth as the best of the non-guaranteed drivers, while Mark Martin, fresh from his Phoenix win, will start seventh behind him, sharing the fourth row with the best ranked Toyota driver, rookie Scott Speed.
Brad Keselowski and David Ragan rounded out the top 10, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., the only Hendrick driver without a win this year, will start the race from 11th place on the grid.
Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth will share the seventh row of the grid with points leader Jeff Gordon, who held on to pole position provisionally in the early stages of the session.
Robby Gordon and Reed Sorenson will lose their qualifying position after their cars failed minimum height requirements in the post-session technical inspection. Meanwhile AJ Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne will drop to the back of the grid after being forced to make engine changes on their Richard Petty Motorsports Dodges.
Michael McDowell and Eric McLure both failed to qualify.
Pos Driver Car Speed Time Gap
1. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 188.171 50.890s
2. Greg Biffle Ford 188.141 50.898s + 0.008s
3. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 187.971 50.944s + 0.054s
4. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 187.953 50.949s + 0.059s
5. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 187.919 50.958s + 0.068s
6. Regan Smith Chevrolet 187.897 50.964s + 0.074s
7. Mark Martin Chevrolet 187.861 50.974s + 0.084s
8. Scott Speed Toyota 187.824 50.984s + 0.094s
9. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 187.687 51.021s + 0.131s
10. David Ragan Ford 187.640 51.034s + 0.144s
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 187.610 51.042s + 0.152s
12. Bobby Labonte Ford 187.607 51.043s + 0.153s
13. Matt Kenseth Ford 187.574 51.052s + 0.162s
14. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 187.423 51.093s + 0.203s
15. Casey Mears Chevrolet 187.412 51.096s + 0.206s
16. Carl Edwards Ford 187.383 51.104s + 0.214s
17. Joe Nemechek Toyota 187.379 51.105s + 0.215s
18. Denny Hamlin Toyota 187.163 51.164s + 0.274s
19. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 187.071 51.189s + 0.299s
20. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 187.061 51.192s + 0.302s
21. Scott Riggs Toyota 186.900 51.236s + 0.346s
22. Joey Logano Toyota 186.889 51.239s + 0.349s
23. Kyle Busch Toyota 186.831 51.255s + 0.365s
24. Paul Menard Ford 186.823 51.257s + 0.367s
25. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 186.663 51.301s + 0.411s
26. David Gilliland Chevrolet 186.638 51.308s + 0.418s
27. Jeremy Mayfield Toyota 186.627 51.311s + 0.421s
28. Kurt Busch Dodge 186.518 51.341s + 0.451s
29. Max Papis Toyota 186.460 51.357s + 0.467s
30. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 186.423 51.367s + 0.477s
31. Brian Vickers Toyota 186.401 51.373s + 0.483s
32. Michael Waltrip Toyota 186.260 51.412s + 0.522s
33. Jamie McMurray Ford 186.245 51.416s + 0.526s
34. David Reutimann Toyota 186.108 51.454s + 0.564s
35. Reed Sorenson Dodge 185.902 51.511s + 0.621s
36. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 185.596 51.596s + 0.706s
37. Kasey Kahne Dodge 185.459 51.634s + 0.744s
38. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 185.384 51.655s + 0.765s
39. Michael McDowell Toyota 185.362 51.661s + 0.771s
40. Robby Gordon Toyota 185.323 51.672s + 0.782s
41. David Stremme Dodge 184.765 51.828s + 0.938s
42. AJ Allmendinger Dodge 184.608 51.872s + 0.982s
43. Elliott Sadler Dodge 184.161 51.998s + 1.108s
44. Eric McClure Chevrolet 184.048 52.030s + 1.140s
45. John Andretti Chevrolet 182.738 52.403s + 1.513s