NASCAR: Kahne on Pocono pole
By Jenna Fryer
LONG POND, Pa.ó Kasey Kahne continued his midseason turnaround Friday by winning his first pole of the year at Pocono Raceway.
Now Kahne hopes to parlay it into his second Sprint Cup Series win of the season.
Kahne snapped a 52-race winless streak two weeks ago in the Coca-Cola 600, which came eight days after he scored a $1 million payday by winning the All-Star race. Still riding that momentum, Kahne hopes to parlay his front row starting spot into his second points win of the season.
“To me, if you qualify well at this race track, you race pretty well,” Kahne said. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to run first, but I think we can run in the top 10. Track position will be big, and we’re starting up front.”
Kahne ran a lap at 170.219 mph in his No. 9 Dodge to knock Jimmie Johnson off the top starting spot. It was the 15th pole of his career and second at Pocono ó he set the track record here in 2004 with a lap of 172.533.
Johnson, the first driver to make his qualifying run, ran a lap at 169.856 to hold down the pole for most of the session. Kahne went out 31st and grabbed the pole away from him.
“I was really pleased with that qualifying lap. Being the first car out is never a good situation,” said Johnson, who earned his 11th top-10 starting position of the season.
Mark Martin qualified third with a lap at 168.987 then heaped praise on his Dale Earnhardt Inc. crew.
“Gosh, it’s just been one of the best days I can remember,” Martin said. “Man, it’s just so much fun to go to the race track and drive a car like that.”
Regan Smith, Martin’s teammate at DEI, was fourth and received a hearty congratulatory handshake from the veteran.
“Awesome man, you did good!” Martin gushed.
“Mark’s helping me out more than anybody in racing has helped me out,” Smith said.
Joe Nemechek was fifth and was followed by Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Scott Riggs.
Kyle Busch, who will attempt to become the first driver in NASCAR history to race in all three national series at three different tracks on the same weekend, qualified 10th and hopped on a plane headed for the Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“We just need a good starting spot for Sunday,” said Busch, the points leader. “We’re not all that happy with the way things have gone here this weekend. We’ve got some work to do.”
Kurt Busch was 11th and followed by Tony Stewart, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Terry Labonte, making his first start of the season as a fill-in driver for Kyle Petty, used a past champion provisional to make the field.
Only 44 cars were on the entry list, so only one driver was headed home and J.J. Yeley lost that race. He failed to qualify for the second time this season.
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