Marcos Ambrose made a record run for the pole for tomorrow’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, already shaping up as a race steeped in controversy.
Ambrose qualified at 203.241 miles per hour in his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, best of the 45 cars setting times at MIS, as the top 19 qualifiers all shattered the 200 mph barrier. It was the first career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole for Ambrose and the third-fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR history
The pole speed was the fastest in NASCAR history at a track other than Daytona or Talladega. The old track record of 194.232 mph was set by Ryan Newman in 2005 and the previous non-restrictor-plate track record was 197. 478, set by Geoffrey Bodine in Atlanta in 1997. A total of 39 cars broke Newman’s MIS record.
Kevin Harvick had a great effort as well, pushing his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to 202.037 mph, second fast in the session. Then came Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Newman.
The second five was NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart. Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson.
Thursday and Friday, the teams spent 8 hours and 40 minutes testing and practicing on the newly repaved MIS track surface. But after Greg Biffle stunned the garage with a lap of nearly 205 mph on Friday afternoon and drivers complained of blistered tires, Goodyear decided to change left-side tire compounds for tomorrow’s race.
The teams qualified on the same tires they practiced on, but will put the new left sides on for the first time for a 75-minute practice session that will begin at 6 p.m. ET. SPEED will televise the final practice.
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.