As Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 draws closer, no NASCAR driver could be happier than Tony Stewart. Stewart drove his No. 14 Chevy to win the pole at Pocono Raceway on Friday with a qualifying lap of 171.393 mph. This will mark his second pole of the season, his first coming at Texas Motor Speedway in April.
“Man, it felt good,” Stewart said. “If you want a place where you want good track position, it’s here at Pocono.”
Stewart has a little experience starting from the top spot at the Tricky Triangle. He was awarded the pole at NASCAR’s two stops at Pocono in 2009 after rainouts washed out qualifying. Back in the June race, he started from the sixth spot and finished third. Now, he will have a good shot at moving up in the 2010 Sprint Cup Points Standings where he is currently in ninth place. In qualifying, he felt good during his first two turns, but thought he hit a rough spot around Turn 3.
“I felt like I might have lost a little bit of time there, but we got through there pretty good, too apparently. Better than I thought, I guess,” Stewart said.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished second in qualifying on Friday. Montoya hopes to take better advantage of his starting position than he did a week ago. He won the pole for the Brickyard 400 but managed to finish just 32nd in the race. Montoya is 22nd in the standings and out of contention for the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he hopes to use this weekends’ race as an opportunity to “try alot of things.”
Montoya was asked if there was any similarities between the Brickyard and Pocono which are both 2.5-mile tracks.
“I haven’t figured it out yet. Honestly, if there’s anything similar between these two places I haven’t seen them,” said Montoya in typical entertaining fashion. “Honestly, this place is bumpy hell … It’s hard, it’s unpredictable.”
Denny Hamlin will start from the third spot on Sunday. Hamlin is on a mission to sweep both races at Pocono this year after winning the Pocono 500 back in June. He has been in a little slump over the past five weeks and has finished no higher than eighth. Hamlin currently is in third in the points standings and will use this weekend to make a move. He has had much success at Pocono. In addition to his win in June, Hamlin also won the Pennsylvania 500 last year and both races here in 2006.
NASCAR sportsbooks feel that Hamlin will continue his success at Pocono and have his odds set at 3/1 to win on Sunday. Jimmie Johnson has his set at 4/1 while Stewart is at 7/1.