NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will tell you that where they qualify at Talladega Superspeedway has nothing whatsoever to do with driver ability and everything to do with horsepower and aerodynamics. The driver simply mashes the accelerator pedal for two laps and what he gets is what he gets.
And the drivers will tell you that where they qualify at the 2.66-mile track really doesn’t have much to do with where they ultimately finish after 188 grueling laps on Sunday.
But winning the pole at Talladega is still a big deal.
Just ask Juan Pablo Montoya, who captured the pole for Sunday’s Amp Energy Juice 500 with a lap of 184.640 miles per hour in his No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. It was Montoya’s third pole of the season, fifth of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career and second at Talladega.
Qualifying on the outside of Row 1 was Clint Bowyer, who ran 184.498 mph in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Both cars on the front row are powered by Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines, the same motors that have won all three prior restrictor-plate races this season.
Row 2 featured a pair of surprises: Kurt Busch's No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, which had a lap of 184.388 mph, and the go-or-go-home Toyota of Front Row Joe Nemechek, 181.322 mph.
Bowyer’s RCR teammate, Jeff Burton, will start on the inside of Row 3, after qualifying at 184.161 mph. He will be flanked by perennial NASCAR favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has a particularly strong following at Talladega, a track where he has five previous victories. Earnhardt qualified at 183.906 mph in his Hallowdega-themed Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.
Completing the top 10 were Dave Blaney in Tommy Baldwin’s Chevrolet, Ryan Newman’s Stewart-Haas Chevrolet, Dave Blaney’s Germain Racing Toyota and Sam Hornish Jr. in a second Penske Dodge.
Failing to qualify were Travis Kvapil, Johnny Sauter and Landon Cassill.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.