Kurt Busch Snags 14th Career Pole at Pocono; Paul Menard Scores Second

[media-credit name=”Ed Coombs” align=”alignright” width=”209″][/media-credit]After crashing his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge in practice and having to pull out a backup car, Kurt Busch was despondent, especially thinking that if qualifying was rained out, he would start the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway dead last.

But the racing gods were with him, the weather held, and Busch snagged his 14th career pole, with a speed of 171.579 mph and a time of 52.454 seconds. This was Busch’s first pole in 21 races at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’

“There were quite a bit of different emotions out there today, especially after having to bust out the backup car from yesterday’s  mishap,” Busch said. “If it were raining today, we’d be starting last.”

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“Now luckily the weather held out and we’re on the pole,” Busch said. “It’s an amazing swing of events and an honest thank you to my guys. To pull the backup out as a pole winning car is really something you wouldn’t hear about back in the day.”

Busch’s pole also signified the third straight pole for Penkse Racing and his teammate Brad Keselowski was the winner of last weekend’s event at Kansas Speedway. Busch admitted in the media center after his pole run that Penske Racing has indeed turned a corner.

“We haven’t changed a lot of things since Richmond and it’s just been some procedures and processes and maybe looking at the data a bit differently,” Busch said. “It’s great to come back out and get on the pole again.”

Busch also referenced his superstition, feeling that he was stuck on the ‘unlucky 13’ pole.

“To be number 14 already, really feels good,” Busch said.

Busch’s crew chief, Steve Addington, echoed his driver’s feelings about the pole run.

“I want to thank everybody on this Shell/Pennzoil Dodge,” Addington said. “The work they did to get this car ready was awesome.”

“To lay down a lap like that is pretty impressive,” Addington continued. “And that guy that sits behind the steering wheel isn’t too damn bad either.”

Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet, scored the outside pole, with a speed of 171.422 mph and a time of 52.502 seconds. This was Menard’s fifth top-10 start of 2011 and his first such start in nine races at Pocono.

“We definitely thought it would rain out qualifying today,” Menard said. “So, we tried to post a good time early in practice and felt that would be our qualifying run.”

“We were hoping for rain, honestly,” Menard continued. “To qualify second and actually put a lap down was pretty cool. It was much more meaningful that way.”

Four-time champion Jeff Gordon posted his 22nd top-10 start at Pocono Raceway. He qualified third in his No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, with a speed of 171.350 mph and a time of 52.524 seconds.

“I’ll be honest, prior to that run, I was kind of hoping it was going to rain,” Gordon said with a laugh. “We made a couple of qualifying runs yesterday and we weren’t really thrilled with the pace.”

“The track was definitely a lot different as it was hot and slick,” Gordon continued. “We did our fastest laps in race trim and so we weren’t really sure what to expect today.”

“We looked at the lap times and seeing just how fast the track was today, it gets you anxious when you ran a 54.10 and guys were running in the 52s,” Gordon said. “It was interesting because right before I left the truck I told Alan (Gustafson), ‘It looks like half a second per corner’ and as a driver, a half a second a corner just isn’t fathomable.”

“As a driver, to go out there and do that and put up a good lap and be third, I’m thrilled,” Gordon said. “I’m very, very happy.”

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota and past master of Pocono Raceway, qualified fourth with a speed of 171.174 mph and a time of 52.578 seconds.

Regan Smith, behind the wheel of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, continued his hot qualifying hand and rounded out the top five, with a speed of 171.164 mph and a time of 52.581 seconds.

Starting Lineup
5-Hour Energy 500, Pocono Raceway
http://www.speedwaymedia.com/Cup/qual.php?race=14
Pos. No. Driver Make Speed Time
1 22 Kurt Busch Dodge 171.579 52.454
2 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 171.422 52.502
3 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 171.35 52.524
4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 171.174 52.578
5 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet 171.165 52.581
6 99 Carl Edwards Ford 171.057 52.614
7 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 170.836 52.682
8 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 170.532 52.776
9 0 David Reutimann Toyota 170.348 52.833
10 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet 170.2 52.879
11 6 David Ragan Ford 170.177 52.886
12 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 170.126 52.902
13 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 169.908 52.97
14 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 169.872 52.981
15 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 169.856 52.986
16 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet 169.702 53.034
17 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota 169.671 53.044
18 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota 169.607 53.064
19 20 Joey Logano Toyota 169.52 53.091
20 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge 169.501 53.097
21 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 169.447 53.114
22 46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 169.444 53.115
23 83 Brian Vickers Toyota 169.441 53.116
24 71 Andy Lally* Ford 169.37 53.138
25 51 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 169.307 53.158
26 38 Sam Hornish Jr. Ford 169.278 53.167
27 17 Matt Kenseth Ford 169.224 53.184
28 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford 169.176 53.199
29 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota 169.17 53.201
30 34 David Gilliland Ford 169.119 53.217
31 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 169.113 53.219
32 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 169.084 53.228
33 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 168.932 53.276
34 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 168.89 53.289
35 13 Casey Mears Toyota 168.666 53.36
36 66 Michael McDowell Toyota 168.218 53.502
37 16 Greg Biffle Ford 167.773 53.644
38 37 Tony Raines Ford 167.395 53.765
39 181 Scott Riggs Chevrolet 167.264 53.807
40 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet 167.057 53.874
41 32 Mike Bliss Ford 166.867 53.935
42 7 Scott Wimmer+ Dodge 162.414 55.414
43 150 T.J. Bell* Toyota 166.633 54.011

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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