Watkins Glen, N. Y. – Shooting for his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Watkins Glen International, Marcos Ambrose started off the weekend on a high note by taking the pole position for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Driving the Stanley/CTC Jump Start Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, the speedy Australian toured the 2.45-road course at a record speed of 128.241 miles per hour.
In all, 10 drivers broke Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2012 mark of 127.020 mph and for the Sprint Cup season, track records have been set 12 times.
For Ambrose, he took his first Sprint Cup pole position at Watkins Glen to go along with two Nationwide Series poles. In the victory column, Ambrose had two Cup wins under his belt, plus four Nationwide victories.
“It feels great to be here, as these days don’t come around too often” Ambrose said after climbing from his Ford. “It was a great lap, but it wasn’t perfect. And it wasn’t the cleanest lap I could have done, but it was enough to get the job done. These Gen-6 race cars are certainly faster around here, and we still have the same handling issues but we are going faster. The new car really suits this race track. Today I was very aggressive wanting to throw down a fast lap and was the lucky one to get the pole.”
Regarding the race, he added, “We have as good a chance as anybody to win it. We have a good plan for Sunday and now we have to execute that plan, get off the starting line clean and see how the race unfolds. You can’t control the race, but you can put yourself into the best possible and see how the track condition holds up. Hopefully, we have the best car at the end.”
Clint Bowyer put the PEAK/Duck Dynasty Toyota on the outside of the front row with a speed of 127.958 mph. The Kansan wasn’t surprised that Ambrose scored the pole but he lauded his team for their positive work with car preparation.
“I am proud of that lap; I felt like it was a solid one,” he said. “It’s all about just posting a good solid lap to where you can give yourself a chance come Sunday. I am very proud of all the guys on this car; it is fast. You’ve got one lap, and you have many opportunities to mess up out there. There are so many places to make a mistake. It’s hard to put it all together and for me, I am ecstatic about it.”
In seven previous Cup races, Bowyer’s best qualifying effort here has been 11th.
Teammate Martin Truex Jr. timed third fastest at 127.462 mph in the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota.
Fellow Toyota drivers A. J. Allmendinger and Kyle Busch nailed down the fourth and fifth fastest runs with Jamie McMurray putting his Chevrolet into the sixth slot.
Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.
Montoya lost time in qualifying and ended up 11th.
Other notables and their starting spots for the second road-course race of season were Kurt Busch, 13th; Ryan Newman, 14th; Carl Edwards, 16th; Jimmie Johnson, 18th; Pocono winner Kasey Kahne, 19th; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 25th; Jeff Gordon, 28th; and Max Papis, substituting for Tony Stewart, 29th. Danica Patrick motored to a 35th effort.