Date:  June 5, 2015

Event:  Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 Qualifying (Round 14 of 36)

Series:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:  Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2.5-mile triangle)

Pole Winner:  Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (50.676 seconds at 177.599 mph)

SHR Lineup:  Kurt Busch (1st, 50.676 seconds at 177.599 mph)

                  Kevin Harvick (5th, 50.790 seconds at 177.200 mph)

                  Danica Patrick (22nd, 51.478 seconds at 174.832 mph)

                  Tony Stewart (28th, 51.531 seconds at 174.652 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 winning the pole for the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday. It was the 26th Sprint Cup pole for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s fourth this season. 

Busch turned a lap of 50.676 seconds at 177.599 mph in the third and final round of knockout qualifying on the 2.5-mile triangle to score his 19th career Sprint Cup pole, his second at Pocono and his third of the season – matching the second-highest pole total of his career. He had three poles in 2011 and his highest season total was six in 2006. 

“Wow, what a day,” said Busch, a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Pocono (July 2005 and August 2007). “The car was just off-balance in practice, especially with the new bumps in turn two. And then we got way loose so I think we were 30th in practice. So we had to drop back and punt. We reverted to the setup Daniel Knost (crew chief, No. 10 Chevrolet) had for us last year when we qualified outside pole. So, that’s what it’s all about – team communication and working hard together as a group. Thanks to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart, everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, Haas Automation, Chevrolet, State Water Heaters – great to have the pole position. We worked hard for it today.”

Qualifying consisted of three rounds. The first was 20 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 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/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualified fifth with a time of 50.790 seconds at 177.200 mph.

“We just got loose in the last session,” said Harvick, who has six top-five finishes in 28 starts at Pocono. “We have been struggling a little bit in the last sessions here trying to decide exactly what we want to do for balance. Still, I’m really proud. The Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet is really fast so we’ll just go from there.”

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 22nd with a time of 51.478 seconds at 174.832 mph.

“I think we just missed it with the tire pressures in the second round,” said Patrick, who will make her fifth career start at Pocono on Sunday. “The GoDaddy Chevrolet was OK in turns two and three, but it was really, really tight in turn one and we weren’t able to post the lap we needed to make it to the final round.”

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS, qualified 28th with a time of 51.531 seconds at 174.652 mph. Stewart was forced to his backup car after an early crash in practice took out his primary racecar. However, since Stewart’s team retained the engine from their primary car, they will keep their starting position for Sunday’s race.

“I actually thought my second run was better than my first,” said Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup winner at Pocono (June 2003 and June 2009). “I put us in a hole with the practice crash and I’m just going to have to spend the next two days making up for it with the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.”

The red flag was displayed with 39 seconds remaining in the final round of qualifying after Denny Hamlin spun between turns one and two. With not enough time remaining in the session to complete a qualifying run, NASCAR officials declared the session complete. Five teams had yet to post a lap in the final round. As such the remainder of the top-12 lineup was set by speeds from the second round of qualifying.

Carl Edwards will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 50.690 seconds at 177.550 mph.

The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Harvick, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.

The Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 gets underway at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday with live coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.