Junior Wins Beer Pole Battle

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Who knew all Dale Earnhardt Jr. needed to snap a five year pole draught was a little bit of rain?

Just before Earnhardt Jr. was scheduled to come out and qualify for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500, a slight rain shower hit the 2.5-mile speedway and caused a delay. After a 45-minute wait, the driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet was able to put on new tires and tackle a cooler and “green” track en route to claiming the top starting position with a fast lap of 169.975 mph.

"The rain cooled the track down, and it dried pretty quick," Earnhardt said. "They didn't have to use the jet blowers that much, which can really heat up the track. We have a good car. We were going to be somewhere between fifth and 12th the way things were before, so you've got to credit the weather."

It is Earnhardt Jr.’s first Bud Pole Award since the Kansas Speedway in September, 2002, a streak of 172 races, and seventh of his NEXTEL Cup Series career.

The only thing sweeter than finally claiming a pole position for Earnhardt Jr. and his team was the fact that he was able to knock off his beer rival Kurt Busch, who drove his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to a fast lap 169.863 mph earlier in the afternoon.

Going into Sunday’s race, Earnhardt Jr. leads Busch by 13 points for the 12th and final spot in the championship deciding Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Kyle Busch, the driver whom Junior is replacing at Hendrick Motorsports next season, was third quick with Dodge drivers Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne rounding out the top five.

Last year’s polesitter and race winner, Denny Hamlin, was sixth fastest with Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson completing the top 10.

Greg Biffle (12th) and Dave Blaney (19th) were the fastest drivers, respectively, for manufacturers Ford and Toyota.

On top of Blaney’s top 20 qualifying performance, Toyota had a very good day on Friday as they had a record six cars make the race; Blaney, Brian Vickers (28th), David Reutimann (31st), Michael Waltrip (39th), Dale Jarrett (40th) and Jeremy Mayfield (43rd).

The list of drivers who failed to qualify for Sunday’s race includes Mike Bliss, AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Lepage and Kenny Wallace.

Sunday’s running of the Pennsylvania 500 is scheduled to take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. (ET). ESPN (TV), MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio will all have live coverage of the 200 lap event beginning at 1 p.m. (ET).

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