Rookie Kyle Larson continued his impressive first season winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series pole at Pocono Raceway on Friday. Larson survived the three rounds of knockout qualifying putting down a track qualifying record lap of 183.438 mph (49.063 seconds). The record is the 15th Cup track qualifying record set thus far in 2014.
"I had some butterflies before that last round," Larson said. "I knew we had a shot at the pole and I was nervous. I hit all three corners about as good as I could."
Larson becomes the first graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity initiative to win a pole in NASCAR’s top level.
“It’s great to get my first ‘real’ pole,” Larson said. “I got the pole at Richmond, but that was due to qualifying raining out and we were quickest in practice. This time we got to beat the rain by a little bit and actually got to earn the pole. It was exciting last round for us. “
He also celebrated his 22nd birthday Thursday with his girlfriend who is expecting their first child.
“Actually it was my manager’s six year old daughter’s birthday yesterday also,” he said. “We had a little birthday lunch at the office there. She’s actually mad at me right now because I got my real girlfriend pregnant and she thought she was my girlfriend (laughs). That was fun.”
In the final round Larson passed Joey Logano who had posted fast times in the first two rounds. Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski qualified third.
“Third is a respectable effort,” Keselowski said. “You certainly always want the pole, but we can be proud of where we’re at. I had to make a second run there in the second session, which probably took us away from having a legitimate shot to run with Kyle. He put up a heck of a lap and so did my teammate, Joey Logano, but it was a strong effort. Like I said, we can win from third and we’re happy with that so we’ll move on.”
Rounding out the top five were Kurt Busch, a two-time winner at Pocono who qualified fourth, and Jeff Gordon, who won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis last week and has also scored six victories at Pocono; he qualified his No. 24 Chevy in the fifth position.
“We were in position to get a pole,” Busch said. “We had speed in practice and all the way through our three runs. We picked up time in our final run and we need to do more of that. We picked up speed on that last outing, but it just wasn’t enough. Guys beat us today and we ended up fourth. The car was just really good though. Let’s just make sure we have that balance after the happy hour tomorrow.”
Larson has been on an impressive run so far this season. His best finish in the Sprint Cup series was a second at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in March. He has already won two races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and once in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His first win came in 2013 at Rockingham Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He followed that with a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Auto Club Speedway in March and at Charlotte in May, both in 2014.
Now that he has his first pole, Larson has his sights on his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
“Each week that we get closer to the Chase when you don’t have a win – I think I’m the 15th seed (currently),” Larson said. “It’s all close in points. It would be nice to get a win and relax a little bit. I think we have been close, really close and our car showed a lot of speed pretty much all season long. We just have to find a little bit more. I feel like we have a really fast car for this weekend. Hopefully we can get it done.”
With 43 cars entered, no one was sent home and all who entered will race Sunday.