Casey Mears took the top spot for the Pennsylvania 500 today with a fast lap of 171.720 mph. Mears took to the track late in the qualifying session, and bested the field by a small margin to win his first career pole in the NEXTEL Cup series.
"Our first pole in the Cup series, wow, it's awesome," an excited Mears said after he learned he had won the pole.
In 19 starts this season, Mears has never qualified the No. 41 Ganassi Dodge higher than 6th (Texas), and had only four top-ten attempts.
"Pocono has been a good track for me," said Mears. "To come back here with some experience, this car is a lot more consistent then the car we ran here in June. Hopefully, we will have a little bit of an advantage with this car."
Joe Nemechek, who posted the top time during initial practice for Cup teams, won the outside pole with a lap of 171.654 mph. It marks Nemechek's third to-three starting spot this season.
"Those were good laps and I had to get everything I could," said Nemechek. "I got into Turn 1 just a little bit too hard and all of a sudden it got loose in the middle and then it got tight and then it was all messed up.
"But the tunnel turn and Turn 3 did just perfect and that's all I had. We'll take it. We're close. This US Army team has been awesome. They are giving me top-notch equipment every week and we're right on the verge. If we have a little bit of good luck we will be in good shape."
Last week's race winner, Kurt Busch, posted the third fastest lap with a 171.540 mph.
"Great run for us," said Busch. "This team just keeps getting better and better, and we just keep trying to improve every week. I am proud of my guys."
Mears' teammate Sterling Marlin grabbed fourth with a lap of 171.256 mph in the No. 40 Ganassi Dodge, "We were pretty decent in practice, but we were surprised that we picked up that much.I just went in turn three too deep in qualifying.
"I drove it like a drunk going for more liquor."
Team Yates and the No. 38 Ford of Elliott Sadler complete the top five, posting a lap of 171.168 mph. The second row start marks a season of great time-trial attempts by the No. 38 Ford. In 20 starts this year, Sadler has qualified outside of the top-19 twice (25th at Rockingham, 39th Daytona Pepsi 400).
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who is trying to recuperate from burns suffered in a practice crash at a sports car race two weeks ago, qualified the No. 8 Chevy despite being in some significant pain. He managed to post the 8 car on the board in 16th.
After delays all morning due to heavy fog and low visibility, Cup cars began time-trials about an hour late under sunny skies. The first group of 18 cars made their runs under hot, sunny conditions, while the last bunch of racers saw cool temperatures and cloudy skies. Most racers who had a later draw ran faster times than those who took to the track early in the session.
Defending race and pole winner Ryan Newman was bitten by an early draw. He went out seventh, but only placed the No. 12 Dodge on the chart in 30th.
"The conditions aren't quite as good," commented Newman. "But, nevertheless, we need to be faster. Hopefully, this car will race better than it qualified."
Reigning Cup series champion Matt Kenseth wrecked his primary race car during initial practice on Friday, and had to qualify in a back-up car. Without any track time, Kenseth wowed the crowed by placing the No. 17 Roush Ford on the board in 15th.