CUP: Almirola Wins Charlotte Pole

Thursday night was a Richard Petty sort of night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola scored his first career pole in qualifying for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, and Almirola’s teammate, Marcos Ambrose, rolled in second to give RPM a sweep of the front row.

Almirola turned in a blistering lap of 192.940 miles per hour to bump Jimmie Johnson from the provisional pole and then waited through the final few drivers in the session. Ambrose was the last qualifier, and he fell short of Almirola’s run, clocking in at 191.598.

Johnson was third and was followed by series point leader Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer.

In the second five were Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Regan Smith.

The RPM drivers are winless. Ambrose is 18th in points, and Almirola, in his third race with new crew chief Mike Ford, is 21st.

“We struggled last week at Darlington, and we went with something totally different – we stepped off the island, and it paid off,” Almirola said.

Ambrose called it “a great day for Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports. We’re a two-car team trying to make it against bigger teams. It was a great night for us.

“I was happy with my lap. It just wasn’t quite enough to catch the 43 (Almirola). It could have been better, but it doesn’t count. We had a good run, just not good enough.”

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.