Stewart Wins Pole For Aaron's 312
Tony Stewart finally has found his way into first place at Talladega Superspeedway. Even if it’s just to start the race.
Stewart turned a fast lap of 185.308 mph during qualifying Friday to capture the pole position for Saturday’s running of the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. In his 23 previous NASCAR races at Talladega, Stewart had no poles and no victories, though he has finished second seven times.
Stewart took his No.20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around Talladega’s 2.66-mile tri-oval in 51.676 seconds. It was the sixth Nationwide pole of Stewart’s career and his second this season.
Stewart’s other pole this year also was on a superspeedway, at Daytona International Speedway in the Nationwide season opener, which he won.
“This is the same car that I won Daytona with, so I hope we’re looking at the same kind of weekend.” Stewart said.
Mike Bliss will start next to Stewart on the front row after posting a qualifying run of 185.061 mph. Jason Leffler qualified third at 184.979, followed by former IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti in fourth (184.833) and Brad Keselowski fifth (184.448).
Rounding out the top-10 are Nationwide Series point leader Clint Bowyer in sixth (184.352), Dale Earnhardt Jr. seventh (184.303), Kyle Busch eighth (184.264), Nationwide rookie Cale Gale ninth (184.211) and Denny Hamlin 10th (184.211).
Bowyer’s sixth-place qualifying run makes him the only driver to start in the top-10 of all 10 Nationwide races so far this season.
While being on the pole at Talladega is a new experience for Stewart, running up front in the Nationwide Series has been commonplace this year for Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs’ three primary drivers – Stewart, Busch and Hamlin – have combined for 11 top-10 finishes and five victories in a total of 17 starts.
“If you look at the effort of Joe Gibbs Racing every week in the Nationwide Series, they’ve been the car to beat whether it’s the 18 car or the 20 car,” Stewart said. “As an organization, I’m really proud of those guys.
Franchitti’s fourth-place qualifying effort matched his career-best in the season-opening Nationwide race at Daytona. He said Friday that he is slowly feeling more comfortable in the stock cars after spending most of his career in open-wheel racing.
“This qualifying effort speaks volumes for the job the guys on the team have done,” said Franchitti, who also is running fulltime in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “Running the Nationwide Series so far has been good for the confidence. I’m actually feeling pretty confident about both series right now.”
Driver introductions for Saturday’s race are scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. The 117-lap race is set to begin at 2 p.m.
Children age 11 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a ticketed adult in the general admission grandstands area for all of Saturday’s activities, including The Birmingham News Qualifying for the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Tickets are still available to the Aaron’s Dream Weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, which includes The Birmingham News Qualifying on Friday, the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday and the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. Tickets may be ordered 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.
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