First Career Pole for Larson
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 1, 2014 | 4:41 P.M. EST
Larson posted a new track record of 49.063 seconds, 183.438 mph. (Photo: Getty Images)
LONG POND, Pa. - Kyle Larson knew what was possible and admits he got nervous. He could feel the butterflies in his stomach as he prepared for the final round of qualifying Friday at Pocono Raceway with his first career Sprint Cup pole a possibility.
What followed was one of the best laps he’s run at this 2.5-mile, three-turn track. His reward was beating Joey Logano for the pole by eight-thousandths of a second.
Larson started on the pole at Richmond earlier this year but the field was set by practice speeds when qualifying was rained out so it did not officially count. There was no doubt this time, as Larson set a track record at 183.438 mph.
Logano earned his sixth front-row start this season. Teammate Brad Keselowski has nine front-row starts. Keselowski, who was dominant here in June, starts third.
“We have two fast race cars,’’ Logano said. “I felt like (Kurt Busch) was one of the fastest cars also, and I thought he was going to be the guy we were going to be racing for the pole, but Kyle definitely laid down a good one because I thought my lap was (darn) near perfect and then I got beat, so it’s a little frustrating, but, overall, it’s a good starting spot.’’
Kurt Busch is fourth and Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon starts fifth.
Larson, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Thursday, said he had not experienced butterflies in qualifying this season.
“I don’t know if I knew I was going to get the pole if I didn’t mess up or what, but I was definitely nervous,’’ he said.
It didn’t slow him.
“For whatever reason I feel like I’ve adapted pretty well to this track even though it’s not a track where you maneuver around and can move from the bottom to the top ,’’ said Larson, who has had plenty of laps at Pocono with a test session, running an ARCA car in June and driving in the Camping World Truck Series this weekend. “Seems like I’ve liked tough race tracks and this is one of them.’’
Others did not have as good a day.
Carl Edwards slapped the wall in qualifying and will start 26th. NASCAR penalized Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Greg Biffle (25th) each for blend-line violations, leading Johnson to surmise that “I’m sure it will be a hot topic in (Sunday’s) drivers meeting.’’
NASCAR penalized Biffle at the beginning of the first round, and penalized Johnson as he attempted to climb back into the top 24 to advance to the second round. Both had to return to the pits before attempting another lap. Johnson advanced to the second round but went no further.
Edwards’ troubles were in the opening round.
“I’m not exactly sure why it got so loose,’’ he said. “The rear end just broke loose. It spun so quick I thought I was going to loop it. I just rode into the fence. Trying to get back in (the gas) as quick as I could, I bounced the front end on the access road and hopped the thing into the grass, so added insult to injury.’’
Edwards said the team did not need to go to a backup car because the front end was not damaged and the right rear could be repaired.