Miami's Montoya Wins Poll on road to Homestead-Miami
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TALLADEGA, Ala.--Juan Pablo Montoya and the power of the Earnhardt-Childress engine alliance proved an unbeatable combination Saturday, as Montoya streaked to the pole at Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday's Sprint Cup race.
Montoya turned the second of his two qualifying laps in his No. 42 Chevrolet in 50.890 seconds (188.171 mph), edging Ford driver Greg Biffle (188.141 mph) by .008 seconds. For the first time in his career, Montoya will start from the top spot in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race when the field takes the green flag for Sunday's Aaron's 499.
Martin Truex Jr. (187.971 mph), Montoya's teammate at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, will start third, next to fourth-place qualifier Sam Hornish Jr. (187.953 mph). Clint Bowyer (187.919 mph) claimed the fifth starting spot, edging Regan Smith (187.897 mph), the fastest of the drivers required to qualify on speed.
Smith was first to the checkered flag in last October's Talladega race but was denied the victory, demoted to 18th for passing Tony Stewart below the yellow line separating the racing surface from the apron as the cars approached the finish line. Stewart was declared the winner.
Mark Martin, who claimed his first victory in a Hendrick Motorsports car last Saturday at Phoenix, will start seventh, followed by rookie Scott Speed, Brad Keselowski and David Ragan.
Montoya was the 16th driver to make a qualifying attempt at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, and he had to wait nearly two hours for qualifying to conclude.
"I went back to the motor home, sat down, had a drink, had something to eat and just watched," Montoya said. "It takes forever here. It's one of those places. ... I sat outside for a little bit, then inside, and you just wait.
"It's not like you're antsy or anything, but it's like, 'Can we sit down and have lunch?' No, you've got to wait, because, if you're on the pole, you've got to go and do this, you've got to do that--but it's cool. ... There's been two restrictor-plate races, and in both of them an Earnhardt Ganassi car has been on the pole (Truex won the pole for the Daytona 500).
"Hopefully, we can translate (that) into a win here."
Biffle said he got everything possible out of his car during the qualifying lap.
"Absolutely," Biffle said. "That's all she had. We were eight thousandths of a second different from the 42. You think about what you could have done different. You're just careful about how you turn the steering wheel down in the corner, not to bind the car up and slow it down.
"I felt like I did everything I could to get all I could out of the car."
Notes: Montoya qualified first at last years' race at Kansas Speedway, but his time was disallowed after inspectors found that his rear shock absorbers exceeded the maximum allowable gas pressure. ... The times of Robby Gordon (No. 7 Toyota) and Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Dodge) were disallowed Saturday when their cars failed to meet NASCAR's height requirements. Both drivers will start from the rear Sunday. Sorenson already had been relegated to that position for changing engines after Saturday's final Cup practice. ... Michael McDowell and Eric McClure failed to qualify for the race.
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[photo and story courtesy of NASCARmedia.com]