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Larson wins first Sprint Cup pole at Pocono

Long Pond, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Rookie Kyle Larson claimed his first
career pole in the Sprint Cup Series after topping Team Penske drivers Joey
Logano and Brad Keselowski in Friday’s qualifying at Pocono Raceway.Larson, who drives the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix
Sabates, turned a lap at 183.438 mph during the third and final round of
knockout qualifying, which set a new record at this 2.5-mile triangular-shaped
racetrack. The 22-year-old driver scored his maiden Sprint Cup pole in his
25th start. He edged Logano for the top starting position in Sunday’s 400-mile
race here by just 0.008 seconds.

“I had some butterflies before that last round,” Larson said. “I knew we would
have a good shot at the pole after the second round, but I was nervous. I hit
all three corners about as good as I could, so I was really excited about
that.”

Larson, who is of Japanese descent, became the first NASCAR “Drive for
Diversity” graduate to win a Sprint Cup pole. He started on the pole for the
April 26 race at Richmond. Qualifying there was rained out, but Larson was
awarded the top starting spot since he was fastest overall in practice. He has
yet to win a race in NASCAR’s premier series. Six races remain before the
Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins.

“I really think a win is coming soon, hopefully before the Chase starts,” he
said. “I got the pole at Richmond, but that was in practice. So this is a
legit pole. I’m hoping for a really good weekend now.”

Logano posted a lap at 183.408 mph. He started on the pole and won this race
in June 2012.

“I would have put millions of dollars on that lap being the pole,” Logano
said. “It felt so good. [Crew chief] Todd Gordon made great adjustments for
each run. We kept going faster and faster, and I felt like I nailed all three
corners. I was thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, this is perfect. I got it this time.’ And
then I get beat. It sucks.”

Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, finished third in qualifying with a lap at
182.700 mph.

Kurt Busch placed fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon, the current points leader
and winner of last weekend’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Gordon has the
most wins at Pocono with six.

Qualifying seventh through 12th were: Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale
Earnhardt Jr., who won at Pocono in June, Danica Patrick, rookie Austin Dillon
and Kasey Kahne, who scored the victory here one year ago.

The top-11 drivers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of
181.415 mph, set by Denny Hamlin two months ago. Hamlin missed the cut for the
final qualifying round by 0.045 seconds. He will start 13th.

Other notable drivers and their starting positions include: Clint Bowyer
(14th), Tony Stewart (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th), Matt Kenseth (18th), Ryan
Newman (21st), Greg Biffle (25th) and Carl Edwards (26th).

All 43 drivers who attempting qualifying made the starting field.