Friday, April 16, 2010

Tony Stewart Grabs Texas Pole; First Cup Pole Since Martinsville in 2005

by Sporting News Wire Service

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tony Stewart and the Coors Light Pole award rarely belong in the same sentence.

Stewart, however, defied his self-proclaimed status as a poor qualifier Friday by winning the pole for Sunday's Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, breaking a drought of 155 races.

Turning a lap at the 1.5-mile track in 28.224 seconds (191.327 mph), Stewart edged another surprise front-row starter, Sam Hornish Jr., who posted the second-fastest speed at 191.232 mph. The pole is the 11th of Stewart's Cup career, which began in 1999.

Greg Biffle (190.900 mph) qualified third, four-time defending Cup champion and current points leader Jimmie Johnson (190.880 mph) qualified fourth, and Kasey Kahne -- the week's big newsmaker thanks to his announced move from Richard Petty Motorsports to Hendrick Motorsports -- nailed down the fifth starting spot with a lap at 190.712 mph.

"I'm surprised," confessed Stewart, who will make his 400th start in the Cup Series on Sunday. "I'm not really much of a qualifier, but it shows what [crew chief] Darian Grubb and all the guys at Stewart-Haas ... how hard the work they've been doing, and [this is] the result."

Stewart was the 23rd driver to make a qualifying attempt, but he didn't think the relatively late draw gave him a significant advantage.

"It seems like the track cools down a lot during the session, and everybody worries about where you draw for your run," Stewart said. "We picked up time from practice, which was good, obviously, but it didn't seem like the conditions changed a lot [Friday], which was unusual."

If Stewart chooses the inside lane to start the race, Hornish will start directly in front of Johnson, who seldom misses an opportunity to recall his wreck at Texas during the Chase last fall. Contact from Hornish's Dodge sent Johnson's Chevrolet spinning into the inside wall.

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