Gresham Earns Pocono Pole

Max Gresham

Gresham scored his second pole in 10 career starts. (Photo: ARCA)

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Max Gresham drove the fastest ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards qualifying lap at Pocono Raceway in eight years, and will start first in tomorrow's Pennsylvania ARCA 125.

Gresham's lap of 53.535 seconds (168.114 mph) in the No. 25 World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park Toyota helped the 18-year-old Georgia driver to his second Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell in 10 career starts, backing up a pole-winning effort at Indiana's Salem Speedway in his ARCA debut last spring.

The pole is the third for Venturini Motorsports' No. 25 car at Pocono in the last two seasons; Mikey Kile won the pole and finished second last June, and Brennan Poole finished fifth from the top spot this June. With his lap, Gresham finished faster than the top driver in each of the last 12 ARCA qualifying sessions at Pocono, a stretch which reaches back to Kyle Busch's 2003 track record of 170.849 mph.

"It was a dandy of a lap," Gresham said. "Everything just lined up perfectly, and (Venturini Motorsports general manager) Billy (Venturini) had the car just right and we had the clouds perfect. The Toyota Camry was on a rail and I drove it for everything it had. Billy's really happy with it right now. Hopefully, the car's as good tomorrow as it is right now. I'm looking forward to having a good run tomorrow."

Venturini Motorsports has won the Menards Pole Award four times in 2011 with four different drivers: Josh Richards (Chicagoland), Poole (Pocono), Ryan Blaney (Winchester), and Gresham.

Gresham's car is the same one he drove to a second-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in June, when rookie points leader Ty Dillon (No. 41 RCR/CIPT Chevrolet) passed him on the final lap. Though he's racing the same car on another big track, Gresham knows that comparing the two races is like matching apples and oranges. After all, tomorrow's race is only 50 laps, or 125 miles, which is a departure even from Pocono's June race, an 80-lap event.

"Michigan was 100 laps, and that's 75 more miles - a two-pit stop race," he said. "This one's only one, so you only have one chance to get the car right if you need adjustments so it makes it a little more difficult. I've got to make sure I relay all of the info I need to Billy, and make sure I tell him everything I need for the race and throughout the race, so when we make our one pit stop, we'll be ready."

Dillon was the fastest qualifier for much of the second half of the qualifying session, losing the advantage only when Gresham attempted his lap two slots from the end. In the end, he fell 0.011 second short of his third consecutive and eighth career pole.

"I guess when it's that close, it's not too bad of a heartbreaker," said Dillon, who will make his 10th front row start in 16 career ARCA races. "Our car's really fast, so this doesn't discourage me much. (Venturini) has really fast equipment too, and they were one of the fastest cars here last time. We brought a brand new car, which I believe is twice as fast as the car we had here last time.

"We were able to lead laps and run up front the whole time last time, so we ought to be able to lead all the laps. I'm so confident in this race car. I can't thank (crew chief Scott) "Flash" (Naset) and all the guys enough and I'm just so happy for the team."

By earning 10 bonus points for qualifying second, Dillon extended his lead over nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford) to 370 points. Kimmel qualified 11th.

Casey Roderick (No. 08 Randy Hill Racing Ford) will start third in just his third start with his new team, having qualified in 53.967 seconds (166.769 mph). Chris Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/David Ragan Ford Ford) will fill out the second row, and Ryan Wilson (No. 32 Champion Oil Toyota) will start fifth.

Kyle Fowler, Tim George Jr., Grant Enfinger, Chad McCumbee, and Tom Hessert comprise the remainder of the top 10. Kimmel's start from the 11th position will be his 38th at Pocono. Pennsylvania driver Bobby Gerhart will roll off 21st in his 45th Pocono start.

The Pennsylvania ARCA 125 begins at 3 p.m. tomorrow, with live television coverage airing on SPEED.

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