After a five year drought from starting a NASCAR race from the pole, Tony Stewart won qualifying for this Sunday’s Samsung Mobile 500 turning in a lap at 191.327 mph at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday. His last pole win was at Martinsville in October of 2005. Of his 37 wins, 13 have come since his last pole, so not starting races at the top spot has not hindered the success of one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers. Starting at the pole on Sunday came as a bit of a shocker to Stewart.
“I’m surprised,” Stewart said. “I’m really not much of a qualifier.”
Sam Hornish Jr., the former IRL star, came close to taking the pole from Stewart and finished with a lap of 191.232. Hornish has not had much success in the Sprint Cup series, but has three wins at Texas in the IRL. He is winless in his third year in the Sprint Cup Series but seems to be getting things going after a career-best qualifying run for two weeks straight after starting third a week ago.
“I knew it was going to be a good lap, but I didn’t think it was going to be the second-fastest,” Hornish Jr. said. “We did make a pretty good jump from where we were in practice.”
Greg Biffle finished third and is still looking for his first top-10 finish after seven races this season. Jimmie Johnson, the current points leader, finished fourth.
Ryan Newman won his first race last weekend at Phoenix for Stewart-Haas Racing and the team appears to be in good shape for another win on Sunday after Stewart’s qualifying finish. Newman’s win last week has Stewart feeling the organization is heading in the right direction.
“To get him that first win for the organization this early in the year, that totally made it for the organization,” Stewart said. “There’s an attitude in the shop that hasn’t been there, period.”
Despite winning the pole, Stewart is not the favorite for Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson is the favorite according to NASCAR sportsbooks with odds set at 4/1, while Stewart’s are at 8/1. Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Kurt Bush have their odds set at 9/1.