Concord, NC (Sports Network) - Aric Almirola claimed his first pole in the
Sprint Cup Series, while his teammate, Marcos Ambrose, qualified second to
give Richard Petty Motorsports the front starting row for Sunday's Coca-Cola
600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Almirola, who is in his first full season in NASCAR's premier series, posted a
lap at 192.940 mph during Thursday's qualifying session at Charlotte. His
maiden pole came in his 47th career Sprint Cup start. This will be the first
time Almirola competes in Cup race at this 1.5-mile racetrack.
"It's really awesome to get my first pole right here at Charlotte," he said.
"I get to drive home and stay in my own bed tonight. That's really cool. [Crew
chief] Mike Ford and all of the guys on this Richard Petty Motorsports team
did an awesome job."
Almirola is the eighth different driver to win his inaugural pole in Cup at
Last month, team owner Richard Petty made a crew chief change with Almirola's
No. 43 team, as Mike Ford replaced Greg Erwin. Ford, who had most recently
served as Denny Hamlin's crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing, began his new role
with Petty earlier this month at Talladega Superspeedway.
Ambrose, who drives the No. 9 Ford for RPM, earned the outside pole with a lap
at 191.598 mph. Ambrose was fastest in practice earlier in the day and
therefore the last driver to qualify in the 47-car field.
"This is great for "The King" [Petty], locking up the front row for the 600,"
Ambrose said. "This is one of the oldest racetracks to go to, and "The King"
is still here, and he's still supporting us and looking over our shoulders.
Congratulations to Aric on a great qualifying lap. The [car] was great out
there, just not good enough for the pole. But I'll take a front row any day."
Jimmie Johnson, who won last Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at
Charlotte, held the provisional pole until Almirola topped him for the
position. Johnson will start third in his attempt to become the first driver
to win both Cup events at Charlotte during the month of May twice in his
career. He won the Charlotte double in 2003.
"I just didn't have the grip that I was hoping for," Johnson said of his
qualifying run. "Our cars have been very fast the past couple of weeks, and we
hope to keep things going."
Greg Biffle, the current points leader, qualified fourth, followed by Clint
Bowyer, Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne, who will make his 300th career start in
Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Regan Smith completed the top-10.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished second in last year's Coca-Cola 600,
qualified 12th, two positions better than defending race winner Kevin Harvick.
Danica Patrick, making her third start in the series, was awarded the 40th
starting position via owner points. Patrick had a disappointing qualifying lap
at 185.179 mph. Her No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing team is currently 34th in
owner points. The top-35 in points are guaranteed a starting position for a
Kurt Busch wrecked during his qualifying run and therefore will start from the
rear of the field in a backup car. Busch got loose in turn two and then spun
around before the front end of his car slammed into the inside retaining wall.
Mike Bliss, David Reutimann, J.J. Yeley and Scott Riggs failed to qualify.
The 600-mile race -- the longest of the season in NASCAR -- is scheduled to
start just after 6 p.m. (ET).
The Sports Network