Brooklyn, MI – Australian Marcos Ambrose recorded the fastest speed in NASCAR qualifications in 25 years on Saturday at the newly repaved Michigan International Speedway.
Ambrose, who drives the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, won the pole for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 after he easily shattered the track qualifying record at Michigan with a lap at 203.241 mph. The 35-year-old Ambrose was the only driver who topped the 203 mph mark.
Due to a new coat of asphalt on the track surface, 40 drivers in Saturday's Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Michigan posted a faster speed than the previous track record of 194.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in 2005. Nineteen of them topped 200 mph.
Ambrose also claimed his first pole in NASCAR's premier series. It came in his 134th start. Ambrose has only one Sprint Cup victory, which came in last year's road-course race at Watkins Glen, NY.
"I didn't know if the time was going to hold up, but I knew I got everything I could out of that race car," said Ambrose, who was the 20th driver to make his qualifying attempt in the 45-car field. "It's just a great feeling. It's my first pole."
Ambrose became the fourth different driver in NASCAR history to win a pole with a lap more than 200 mph. He joined Bill Elliott, Benny Parsons and Cale Yarborough. Elliott was the last driver to top that mark, doing so in July 1987 at Talladega. He won qualifying there with a lap at 203.827 mph.
Kevin Harvick earned the outside pole for the 400-mile race at Michigan with a lap at 202.037 mph. Greg Biffle qualified third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Newman. Biffle was quickest overall in Thursday and Friday's practice sessions with a lap at 204.708 mph, but practice speeds are unofficial.
"I got about all I could get I think out of the car," Biffle said of his qualifying run. "I thought there would be more grip in (turns) one and two, so I backed it down a little bit in three and four, and it might have cost me."
Sixth through 10th in qualifying were: Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, who started on the pole and won last weekend's race at Pocono, and Jimmie Johnson.
Sprint Cup teams will have an additional 75-minute practice session scheduled on Saturday at 6 p.m., since Goodyear has made a tire change for this race. NASCAR and Goodyear made the decision to use a tougher left-side tire after teams had tires that were blistering during Friday's practice sessions.
"With the new repave here at Michigan, coupled with the high temperatures we're seeing this weekend, we feel this change will help us put on the best race possible on Sunday," NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said.
Carl Edwards will have to start from the rear of the field since he did not make a qualifying attempt. Edwards experienced an issue with his engine during his warmup lap and therefore aborted his attempt.
"It's frustrating," he said. "I think it's a fuel issue. It almost feels like there's an air leak or something in the pickup for the fuel."
David Stremme and Stacy Compton failed to qualify.
Sunday's race is scheduled to start just after 1 p.m. (ET).