Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
Lap times were fast during pole qualifying on Saturday for Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to be held Sunday at the newly repaved Michigan International Speedway. Marcos Ambrose's 203.241 mph lap in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford was the 11th-fastest qualifying speed in the history of NASCAR, and the first over 200 mph at a track other than Daytona or Talladega.
“I left a little bit out there. I got greedy into turn three. The Stanley team at Richard Petty Motorsports did an outstanding job for us," Ambrose said. "This is a really great hot rod and I am proud to represent them. We get to start in the front and that is all you can ask for."
We get to start in the front and that is all you can ask for.
The Michigan pole, earned with a lap time of 35.426 seconds, is the first- career Sprint Cup pole for Ambrose. He became only the fourth driver in NASCAR history to make a qualifying lap in excess of 200 mph.
Kevin Harvick qualified the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet second after starting his get-up-to speed lap over prior to taking the green flag for his qualifying attempt. After starting over, Harvick turned in a 35.637-second lap.
Carl Edwards also made his way around the track in the wrong direction to start his qualifying run over. But in the case of Edwards, something was wrong with his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. He was unable to complete a qualifying lap and will line up 42nd for the race on Sunday.
"Man, this is frustrating," Edwards said. "I think it's a fuel issue. It's running but feels like it's running out of fuel."
Greg Biffle didn't have a problem with his Roush Fenway Racing entry, qualifying third in the No. 16 Ford with a lap time of 35.676 seconds.
“I think the car drove really good but I tell (sic) off of four down the front that this wind now that seems to be coming up, I didn’t feel that when I walked out to pit road," Biffle said. "It felt like three-quarters of the way the car was good and then lost a lot of speed. It didn’t feel like it accelerated from turn four to the start finish, like something was wrong with the motor. I got out of the car and feel this strong wind and that could have had a little to do with the lap time. I got about all I could get I think out of the car. I thought there would be more grip in one and two so I backed it down a little bit in three and four and it might have cost me.”
Kasey Kahne was fourth in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after turning a 35.693-second lap, and Ryan Newman qualified fifth in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, posting a lap time of 35.737 seconds.
Joey Logano had the fastest Toyota, qualifying the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry ninth with a 35.777-second qualifying lap. The No. 22 Penske Racing entry of A.J. Allmendinger was the fastest Dodge. Allmendinger qualified 20th with a lap time of 36.010 seconds.
Forty-five cars attempted to make the 43-car field. Stacy Compton and David Stremme were the odd men out and failed to make the race, even though Stremme beat the previous track qualifying record.
In all, 40 drivers topped the previous track qualifying record of 194.232 mph, set by Newman in 2005.
The left side tires used in qualifying were the same tires used in extended practice Thursday and Friday, but NASCAR announced a left tire change to a harder compound for the race. Teams will practice with the new left tires, not used since 2007, in an extra practice after the Nationwide race scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the track.
"We are going to try the tire change tonight and see how our car adapts to that,” Ambrose said.