Juan Pablo Montoya gave his sluggish season a bit of a boost by winning Saturday's qualifying for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Montoya, who was the 16th driver in the 44-car field to make his qualifying run, posted a lap at 176.043 mph to claim the pole for the 400-mile race at Pocono. The driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates claimed his eighth career pole in the Sprint Cup Series but his first since April 2011 at Richmond. He became the 15th different pole winner in the series this season.
"I don't think this is one of my better tracks to be honest with you," said Montoya, who will start on the pole for the first time in 12 races at Pocono. "I actually talked to (team owner) Chip (Ganassi) yesterday, and I said,'You know, part of the problem is me here.' I'm not very good here."
Montoya has struggled this season, as he currently ranks 21st in the point standings. He has finished no better than eighth in the first 20 races this year. His last victory in NASCAR's premier series came two years ago at Watkins Glen (70 races ago).
"We've really got to keep working, keep working on the cars and keep understanding what we need to do," he noted. "You've got to remember that my crew chief (Chris Heroy) is new at this. He's a really smart guy, and he's got a lot of really smart people there. But it's how do you put everything together, and we've been doing a really good job at it. So, we'll see."
Denny Hamlin, a four-time race winner at Pocono, earned the outside pole with a lap at 175.795 mph. Hamlin was the 18th driver to make his qualifying attempt.
"I'd like to say it was a good run, but just a little bit disappointed in our run," he said. "I think we reaped the benefits in going out early. Knowing we were over a quarter-second ahead going into the last corner, we just missed it and our car was just way too loose. We missed the lap a little bit, but still we were very fortunate to end up where we were, and at least now, we will have a good starting spot."
Paul Menard qualified third, followed Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose.
Completing the top 10 were: Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., the current points leader, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson, who won last Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Other notable drivers and their starting positions include: Greg Biffle (12th), Joey Logano (14th), Carl Edwards (17th), Mark Martin (18th), Kyle Busch (20th), Kevin Harvick (21st), Jeff Gordon (27th), Tony Stewart (28th) and Brad Keselowski (31st).
Keselowski is the defending race winner, while Logano won at this 2.5-mile triangular track two months ago. Logano captured the pole the previous two times here.
Stephen Leicht is the only driver who failed to qualify for Sunday's race at Pocono, which is scheduled to start just after 1 p.m. ET.