Talladega, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Brian Scott claimed his first career pole in the Sprint Cup Series with a surprise victory in Saturday's knockout qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway.
During the third and final round of qualifying, which was five minutes in length, Tony Stewart held the provisional pole after the field of 12 cars had completed two laps around this 2.66-mile superspeedway. Scott, who is a regular in the Nationwide Series, topped Stewart for the pole after he was clocked at 198.290 mph on the third and last lap. Scott was running at the tail end of a six-car pack when he crossed the line.
"It's always a team effort to get these superspeedway poles," Scott said. "We had a plan from the beginning to work as a team. About seven of us in a line, [Ryan] Newman was leading it. He was the point man. I know how that feels, because I was the point man in the Nationwide car yesterday. You feel like you don't really have a shot, but you do it to be a team player."
Scott is driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for Circle Racing/Richard Childress Racing in this race. His maiden pole came in just his fifth Sprint Cup start. Scott's previous best start in the series was 12th, which came in this year's Daytona 500.
"This Chevy SS was really fast, and we were able to get the draft and the right suck [up] right there at the last second to get the pole," he said.
Scott became the ninth different pole winner in 10 Sprint Cup races this season. Qualifying for last weekend's event at Richmond was rained out, with rookie Kyle Larson awarded the pole since he was fastest in practice.
Paul Menard, who is Scott's teammate, qualified second to give RCR the front starting row for Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega. Menard turned a lap at 197.888 mph, which was 0.98 seconds behind Scott.
A.J. Allmendinger qualified third, followed by Casey Mears and Austin Dillon, who as a rookie this season captured his first pole at Daytona in February. Ryan Newman was sixth. The top-six finishers are either RCR drivers or use Earnhardt Childress Racing engines.
Danica Patrick had her best qualifying finish of the season with seventh. Kevin Harvick took the eighth spot, followed by Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon, a six-time race winner at Talladega. Stewart ended up qualifying 12th.
Talladega marked the first time knockout qualifying was used for a restrictor- plate race in NASCAR's premier series. The starting lineup for the first restrictor-plate event of the season, the Daytona 500, was determined by its traditional format -- time trials and then the twin qualifying races at Daytona (Budweiser Duel).
Qualifying here was figured to be just as wild and exciting as the race itself. Drivers weren't really sure what to expect during the session. Some feared being caught up in a big wreck since they were running in packs. There were no incidents during qualifying.
"It was an experience," Patrick said of knockout qualifying at Talladega. "Luckily, it wasn't the ultimate entertainment being wrecked cars."
The first segment featured all 47 drivers who were entered for this race.
During the opening round, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano made laps at 200.574 mph and 200.171 mph, respectively. Those were the first qualifying laps faster than 200 mph at Talladega since 1987, before NASCAR began using restrictor plates on the cars to lower the speeds. Busch and Logano did not make it beyond the second round, as Busch qualified 20th and Logano 16th.
"We worked the plan perfectly the first session and got up there," said Logano, who won his second race of the season one week ago at Richmond. "It was such a crazy day, and I just wish we did a little better."
Scott posted the fastest lap in the second round of qualifying (10 minutes in length) at 196.910 mph.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the Daytona 500, failed to advance into the second round of qualifying. Earnhardt will start 30th.
"I don't know what we could have done differently," Earnhardt Jr. said. "You just go out there and run in the draft, so it's hard to put up the fastest lap. We're not too worried about it. We'll get to pick a pretty decent [pit] stall, and that's about all.
"There isn't much else to it, pretty boring really. I don't know if that is the answer at these places. We probably could run some heat races or something like that. It would be more fun than that."
Martin Truex Jr., who was fastest in Friday's opening practice, and Kasey Kahne will have to start from the rear of the field after their cars failed post-qualifying inspection. Both drivers had their times disallowed. Truex's Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet failed to meet height requirements, and Kahne's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was found to be underweight.
Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Eric McClure and J.J. Yeley failed to qualify.