David Reutimann claimed his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup career pole in qualifying for Saturday's race at Richmond.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver knocked Earnhardt Ganassi's Jamie McMurray from provisional pole with a best time of 21.196 seconds at an average speed of 127.383mph. Reutimann had been among the top 10 in the first practice, then was not one of the top runners in the final session of the day, but despite that his benchmark went unbeaten through to the end of qualifying.
"This is our first pole here and the first pole in a while for us," said Reutimann. "We went from getting a couple a year to it being a little while. It's been a dry spell for us so it feels good. Things haven't gone quite the way we wanted them to this year, but we're working hard to get things turned around and I think what you're seeing is a direct result of some of the stuff that we're doing different."
Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson – one of many running commemorative paint schemes to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – showed great consistency in final practice and secured a spot on the second row of the grid beside his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin. Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer, who still has an outside chance of entering title contention, was fifth and among the fastest in both practice sessions.
In a good session for RCR, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick were sixth and seventh ahead of Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards, Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger (who is 13th in the points so on the cusp of a potential Chase spot) and Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya.
Joe Gibbs Racing's cars, which have won the past five races at Richmond, were 13th with Kyle Busch, 16th with Joey Logano while Denny Hamlin only 28th as he hopes to hang on to the final wildcard spot for the Chase.
Tony Stewart, 10th in the points entering the final race of the regular season, was 22nd fastest and needs only an 18th-place finish to secure his place in the play-off. Dale Earnhardt Jr, who needs a 20th place on Saturday night to return to Chase contention, will start from 27th.
"I don't remember what it's like to qualify in the top four here," said Stewart. "It's definitely a lot harder. In the spring race here we qualified in the back and got a lap down early and never could recover from it. But I think we've got a car that runs well... Hopefully, we'll get a lot of long, green-flag runs tomorrow night."
David Stremme was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 26th while Mike Skinner, Erik Darnell and TJ Bell failed to qualify.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 21.196s
2. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 21.204s + 0.008s
3. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 21.224s + 0.028s
4. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 21.246s + 0.050s
5. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 21.258s + 0.062s
6. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 21.261s + 0.065s
7. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 21.297s + 0.101s
8. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 21.309s + 0.113s
9. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 21.311s + 0.115s
10. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 21.313s + 0.117s
11. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 21.316s + 0.120s
12. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 21.323s + 0.127s
13. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 21.325s + 0.129s
14. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 21.326s + 0.130s
15. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 21.350s + 0.154s
16. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 21.353s + 0.157s
17. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 21.366s + 0.170s
18. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 21.366s + 0.170s
19. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 21.382s + 0.186s
20. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 21.387s + 0.191s
21. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 21.387s + 0.191s
22. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 21.393s + 0.197s
23. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 21.397s + 0.201s
24. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 21.403s + 0.207s
25. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 21.413s + 0.217s
26. David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 21.417s + 0.221s
27. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 21.425s + 0.229s
28. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 21.431s + 0.235s
29. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 21.456s + 0.260s
30. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 21.477s + 0.281s
31. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 21.499s + 0.303s
32. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 21.513s + 0.317s
33. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 21.526s + 0.330s
34. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 21.526s + 0.330s
35. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 21.560s + 0.364s
36. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 21.576s + 0.380s
37. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 21.615s + 0.419s
38. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 21.651s + 0.455s
39. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 21.669s + 0.473s
40. Stephen Leicht Baldwin Chevrolet 21.670s + 0.474s
41. Scott Speed Whitney Ford 21.718s + 0.522s
42. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 21.805s + 0.609s
43. JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 21.733s + 0.537s
Did not qualify:
Mike Skinner Germain Chevrolet 21.917s + 0.721s
Erik Darnell Max Q Ford 22.138s + 0.942s
TJ Bell LTD Chevrolet 22.250s + 1.054s