Montoya Edges Bowyer For AMP Energy Juice 500 Pole at Talladega

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The sun was out in full force Saturday for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway. And lately whenever that happens, Juan Pablo Montoya shines as well.

Montoya captured the pole for Sunday’s running of the AMP Energy Juice 500 with a qualifying lap of 184.640 mph. Technically it was Montoya’s second consecutive pole-winning qualifying effort at Talladega, though the previous one took place in April 2009. The past two Sprint Cup Series qualifying sessions at Talladega have been cancelled.

“The team did an amazing job,” Montoya said. “We always have really good race cars here. Now we’ll get ourselves a good pit stall for the race and then see what happens.”

Montoya dedicated his qualifying effort to longtime NASCAR executive Jim Hunter, who passed away Friday at age 71. Montoya was one of several young drivers who received advice and counsel from Hunter over the years while making the transition into Sprint Cup racing.

“He was such a good person. Everybody is going to really miss him,” Montoya said. “It’s nice to be able to get the pole here in his memory.”

Montoya won the pole by the slimmest of margins, nipping Clint Bowyer by less than two-tenths of a second. Bowyer turned in a fast lap of 184.498 mph and was shaking his head in frustration moments after climbing from his car.

“I did everything I could do. I held it wide open and tried to hold it as straight as possible and be as smooth as possible,” Bowyer said. “There’s no question that our ECR horsepower is the reason we’re sitting on the front row.”

Kurt Busch qualified third with a run of 184.388 mph. It is the first time Busch has qualified in the top three for a restrictor-plate race at either Talladega Superspeedway or Daytona International Speedway.

“This is one of the biggest moments of my career at a restrictor-plate track. It’s just a whole different feeling,” Busch said. “It’s really exciting to see the crew guys slapping high fives and (crew chief) Steve Addington having that smug smile on his face, knowing that we achieved something special. This is new for my 10 years (in Cup racing), so I’m savoring the moment.”

Joe Nemechek, who has won four poles at Talladega in his Cup career, qualified fourth with a speed of 184.253. He will be followed in the starting lineup by Jeff Burton in fifth (184.161), Dale Earnhardt Jr. sixth (183.906), Dave Blaney seventh (183.885), Ryan Newman eighth (183.762), Casey Mears ninth (183.621) and Sam Hornish Jr. 10th (183.614).

Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson will start 19th, two spots behind Denny Hamlin, who trails Johnson in the standings by only six points. Kevin Harvick, who won the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway in April and who trails Johnson by 62 points, will start 14th.

Landon Cassill, Travis Kvapil and Johnny Sauter failed to qualify.

The AMP Energy Juice 500 is scheduled to begin at 12:15 p.m. Sunday. Driver introductions are set to start at 11:30 a.m.

Tomorrow dreams will be made, and broken, at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jamie McMurray, a non-Chase driver, shocked the crowd by winning the 2009 AMP Energy Juice 500.  Can another upset be in the making?  Don’t miss the wild card in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.  NASCAR action kicks off with the Mountain Dew 250 fueled by Fred’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Oct. 30 and continues with Race Number Seven in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the AMP Energy Juice 500, Oct. 31.  To experience it all, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA or visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

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