Date: June 6, 2014
Event: Pocono 400 Qualifying (Round 14 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2.5-mile triangle)
Pole Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (49.610 seconds at 181.415 mph – new track record)
SHR Lineup: Kurt Busch (2nd, 29.612 seconds at 181.408 mph)
Kevin Harvick (4th, 49.770 seconds at 180.832 mph)
Tony Stewart (12th, 50.244 seconds at 179.126 mph)
Danica Patrick (16th, 50.265 seconds at 179.051 mph)
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway by setting the second-fastest lap in qualifying for Sunday’s Pocono 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Busch turned a lap of 29.612 seconds at 181.408 mph around the 2.5-mile triangle.
“We came here with a new approach and to try to get out front to settle into the race track a little better,” said Busch, a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Pocono (July 2005 and August 2007). “And this track can lead into finding some comfort with how smooth it is from the repave. I was really surprised that we had the speed for the pole today with our Haas Automation Chevy on just our first attempt at trying something a little different. So, it’s great to cash in.”
Qualifying consisted of three rounds. The first was 25 minutes, with every driver on the track vying to set the fastest lap. The 24 fastest drivers from the first round advanced to the second, 10-minute round. The fastest 12 drivers from that session advanced to the final, five-minute round of qualifying where they battled for the pole. Positions 1-12 were set by speeds in the final round. Positions 13-24 were set by speeds posted in the second round. The remaining 43-car field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance past the first round.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualified fourth with a time of 49.770 seconds at 180.832 mph.
“It’s like we talk about every week,” said Harvick, who has five top-five finishes in 26 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono. “We’ve had some problems but the problems we don’t have are fast cars and those are things that are hard to come by around here. Our Budweiser Chevy is running good today. The luck will take care of itself and we just have to capitalize on the good luck when it comes around.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 12th with a time of 50.244 seconds at 179.126 mph.
“Our Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet drove pretty good all day,” said Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Pocono (June 2003 and June 2009). “I messed up getting into turn one in the last round. That’s on me. The guys worked hard all day and the effort has really paid off.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 16th with a time of 50.265 seconds at 179.051 mph.
“We weren’t bad,” said Patrick, who will make her third Sprint Cup start at Pocono Sunday. “The GoDaddy Chevy was good, but we just kind of missed it in the second session. Our spot isn’t bad, but I think we could have been better. We’ll work on it on Saturday and get ready for Sunday.”
Denny Hamlin won the pole in the final round of knockout qualifying with a lap of 49.610 seconds at 181.415 mph, breaking the previous Sprint Cup track qualifying record of 49.819 seconds at 180.654 mph set by Jimmie Johnson on Aug. 2, 2013. It was his 19th career Sprint Cup pole, his second of the season and his third at Pocono.
After Hamlin and Busch, the 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Brad Keselowski, Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon and Stewart. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.
Forty-three drivers attempted to qualify for the Pocono 400. All made the race since there are 43 starting positions in a Sprint Cup field.
The Pocono 400 gets underway at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with a pre-race show at noon.