Kyle Larson set a qualifying speed record at Pocono Raceway to take pole position in Friday's qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400.
As always, it takes some deft maneuvering to handle the Tricky Triangle in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Nobody did that better than Larson, who paced the field at an astounding 183.438 miles per hour, narrowly edging out Joey Logano by .008 seconds.
Larson, a very promising rookie, is currently 12th in the Sprint Cup Series standings; he can make huge gains at Pocono on Sunday if he can handle the track like he did in qualifying.
Here is the race order and final times from Friday's qualifying session.
|9||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||49.521|
|19||78||Martin Truex Jr.||49.963|
Full list of race times and results can be found at NASCAR.com.
Larson's blistering time not only set a course record, but it proved to be a personal triumph in another way via the Pocono Raceway Twitter account:
We have a new qualifying record 183.438 MPH! Congrats @KyleLarsonRacin on your first NASCAR Sprint Cup career pole!!— Pocono Raceway (@poconoraceway) August 1, 2014
Fox Sports' NASCAR account showed Larson's wry smile after taking pole position with his fantastic time:
Larson was definitely proud of coming through with an excellent time on Friday.
"To get a pole here, my first ‘real’ pole feels great,” Larson said, via Jim Utter of The Charlotte Observer. “To come to the ‘Tricky Triangle’ like this, there is no other race track like it. It’s fun because you get to shift and hit your marks."
As noted, Logano was just barely edged out by Larson's miraculous time. However, he was very consistent on the track, and writer Seth Livingstone noted that he had the fastest time over the first two rounds:
22, 42, 18, 41, 24, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 88, 10 advance to final round of Pocono Cup qualifying. Logano fastest 1st 2 rounds. #NASCAR— Seth Livingstone (@SethLivingstone) August 1, 2014
Jeff Gordon finished fifth in qualifying, but he noted during interviews on the day that his back was still causing him pain. Via ESPN's Marty Smith:
Hmm. Jeff Gordon says he doesn’t think his “back will ever be the same, after what happened at Charlotte.” (Spasms). “It’s not great."— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 1, 2014
NASCAR Stats noted that Dale Earnhardt Jr. briefly held the fastest lap in qualifying:
New man atop the leaderboard: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Just laid down a lap of 179.115 mph. #NASCAR— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) August 1, 2014
Earnhardt Jr. will be looking for a sweep of sorts at the Pocono Raceway, having won at this track earlier in the season. If he can complete the feat, he will be the first driver to win both Pocono races since Denny Hamlin in 2006, per The Associated Press.
Larson's start should have the rest of the field on notice. The Tricky Triangle, with its differing banking angles on the turns and unique course design, is always an intriguing race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
However, racers like Gordon, Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski—who are ahead of Larson in the standings—also fared well in qualifying and should make things difficult for him on Sunday.
Still, taking the pole and then a first win at Pocono would be an excellent early boost for the young Larson's career.