Joe Nemechek is back in his favorite front-row seat.
Nemechek turned a fast-lap of 187.386 mph during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying Saturday to capture the pole position for Sunday’s running of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
It is the 10th Cup Series pole of Nemechek’s career – whose qualifying ability has earned him the nickname “Front Row Joe” – and his fourth at Talladega. He is now tied with Bobby Isaac for fourth place on the list of all-time pole winners at Talladega, and he has the most among active drivers.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of innovative thinking to get your cars to go fast and cut through the air here,” said Nemechek, who is driving the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. “We’re just a small team. We don’t have that many employees. You look at the mega companies, and we were able to beat them today. We’re very proud of that.”
Tony Stewart, who sat on the pole for Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, qualified second for the Aaron’s 499 with a speed of 186.896 mph.
“That’s the best we’ve qualified here in a long time,” said Stewart, who is winless in his career at Talladega but has a total of seven second-place finishes (six in Cup races). “Obviously I would love to have to been on the pole, but I’d trade the pole in for a win (Sunday) any day of the week.”
Stewart is followed in the starting lineup by Ken Schrader in third (186.499), A.J. Allmendinger fourth (186.423) and Kyle Busch fifth (186.416).
Rounding out the top 10 are David Ragan in sixth (186.304), Denny Hamlin seventh (186.300), Brian Vickers eighth (186.177), Dale Earnhardt Jr. ninth (185.974) and Jimmie Johnson 10th (185.387).
With Stewart, Busch and Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing has three drivers starting in the top seven.
“All three (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars are fast,” Stewart said. “The good news is we’re all starting close to each other up front.”
Jeff Gordon, who won both Cup races at Talladega Superspeedway last year, qualified 20th, Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman will start 21st and current Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Burton was 38th.
Dave Blaney, J.J. Yeley and John Andretti were the only three drivers who failed to qualify for the 43-car field.
Both Nemechek and Schrader were in danger of not making the field, because they are outside the top-35 in the point standings and not guaranteed a spotting spot. So they had to make it into the race through qualifying speed.
“If you don’t, with the situation we’re in not being locked in the top-35, you don’t get to play,” Nemechek said. “That’s a tough day. I haven’t had very many of those throughout my career.
“We’re a small organization that’s trying to compete with the big guys. Being a single-car team operating out of Denver, Colorado, this is a big day for this team.”
Driver introductions for the Aaron’s 499 are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. CDT Sunday. The 188-lap race is set to start at 1 p.m.
Tickets are still available to the Aaron’s 499 by calling 1-877- Go2-DEGA, by logging onto www.racetickets.com, and are also available for purchase on-site at the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office located on Speedway Boulevard at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.