[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.”
“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.
|5-Hour Energy 500, Pocono Raceway|
|21||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||169.447||53.114|
|26||38||Sam Hornish Jr.||Ford||169.278||53.167|
|31||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||169.113||53.219|