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Ambrose captures pole at Watkins Glen

Marcos Ambrose continued his dominance at Watkins Glen International on Saturday by winning the pole for the Cheez-It 355.

Ambrose, who is attempting to win his third consecutive Sprint Cup Series race at this 2.45-mile road course, set a new track qualifying record with a lap at 128.241 mph. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver ran in the eighth and final qualifying group. He scored his third career pole in the series. His most recent pole came in June 2012 on the road course in Sonoma, Calif.

"It's never as easy as it looks," Ambrose said of his qualifying run. "I got really loose and came very close to hitting the outside wall, coming off of turn 4. It got me out of the groove."

If Ambrose takes the checkered flag in Sunday's 90-lap race, he will join Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon as those drivers who have scored three wins in a row at Watkins Glen. Martin started on the pole and won here each year from 1993-95. Gordon's three consecutive victories at this track came from 1997-99.

Ambrose has finished no worse than third in his five Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen. The Australian driver sits 22nd in points. He is seven points behind 20th-place Jeff Burton.

"We've got a lot of laps to do tomorrow, and there's no guaranteed success," Ambrose said. "We'll do our best job out there, and hopefully, it goes our way."

The top-10 finishers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 127.020 mph, set by Juan Pablo Montoya one year ago.

Clint Bowyer will start alongside Ambrose on the front row after posting a lap at 127.958 mph.

"These road courses have become something that I look forward to," Bowyer said. "I would have never thought I would say that."

Martin Truex Jr., who is Bowyer's teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing, qualified third. Truex won the first road course race this season in June at Sonoma.

A.J. Allmendinger, driving the No. 47 Toyota for JTG/Daugherty Racing in this race, took the fourth spot, followed by Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard. Brad Keselowski, the defending series champion, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth completed the top-10. Keselowski has finished second to Ambrose in the previous two races here.

Max Papis, who is substituting for the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet, qualified 29th. Stewart suffered a broken right leg in a crash during a sprint car race last Monday in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The three-time Sprint Cup champion and five-time Watkins Glen race winner has had two surgical procedures to repair his fractured tibia and fibula since his accident. He will be sidelined indefinitely.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers struggled in qualifying. Jimmie Johnson, the current points leader, qualified 18th, one spot ahead of his teammate, Kasey Kahne, who won last Sunday's race at Pocono. Dale Earnhardt Jr. placed 25th, and Gordon, a four-time winner at Watkins Glen, was 28th.

Danica Patrick will start 35th.

All 43 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field for Sunday's race, which is scheduled to start shortly after 1 p.m. ET.