Nemechek starts first for Talladega Cup race

Front Row Joe Nemechek earned his nickname, and the pole for the ninth race of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. Nemechek, driving the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing took the pole with a 51.103 (187.386 mph) and earned his first...

Front Row Joe Nemechek earned his nickname, and the pole for the ninth race of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. Nemechek, driving the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing took the pole with a 51.103 (187.386 mph) and earned his first pole of the season.

"It means a lot for a lot of reasons. One, we have struggled a lot this year at a lot of other tracks. We were really good at Daytona and we had a lugnut go through the oil cooler. It was a tough deal," said Nemechek.

Nemechek and the No. 78 team have missed two races this season and it is a good turn around for their team. This is Nemechek's fourth pole at Talladega during his career and the last time he started first at Talladega was in the Fall race of 2004.

"I am so proud of Furniture Row/National Day of Prayer crew guys; Jay Guy (crew chief), Joe Garrone (team manager), Barney Visser (team owner) for giving us this opportunity. Special sponsor on board here, National Day of Prayer. How many times do you get to qualify and sit on the pole when your car says 'We need to pray as a nation.' It is a big statement.

"I want to thank Hendrick Motorsports. The engines have been incredible this year," continued Nemechek. "We are getting better and better at making these cars to go around the corner and getting them to go faster. It is a big day."

Starting in second place is the No. 20 of Tony Stewart with a 51.327 (186.896 mph). Stewart, who has never won at Talladega, and has been rumored to be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season, has started second once before at Talladega. Stewart has an average finish of 12.6 and 11 top-ten's in only 18 starts at Talladega.

"I'm excited about it," said Stewart. "Everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and on the Home Depot team did a great job for qualifying. The car drove really good yesterday in race trim and with this being an impound race we just take the tape off and start racing tomorrow. I'm excited about that part. If it's showing speed now, hopefully it's going to show that speed again tomorrow."

Third place was quite a shocker also as Ken Schrader filled the position in the No. 70 car with a 51.346 (186.499 mph). Schrader, who is without a full time ride, hopped into this car for a one race gig and got the car into the race with a solid starting position in his only race with the team so far.

"It was desperation," remarked Schrader when asked about being last man out to qualify. "When you aren't locked in to the top-35, you do what you have to do. We definitely concentrated more on qualifying for today. We will probably have to undo a little bit of that tomorrow."

In his return to the No. 84 seat, A.J. Allmendinger qualified a career best fourth with a 51.367 (186.423 mph) at Talladega. Allmendinger's previous best qualifying position was a fifth place start doing the 34th round of the Sprint Cup series in 2007 at Texas.

"It was important for everybody at the team to make this race, but it was probably doubly important for me to make it -- just getting back in," said Allmendinger. "They worked so hard -- I just want to thank them, all the credit goes to them and Toyota -- they brought a ton of horsepower. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, but unfortunately we didn't do any drafting practice so now I have to start near the front and see where that goes."

Rounding out in fifth is the No. 18 of Kyle Busch in his Toyota with a 51.369 (186.416 mph). Ky. Busch is currently second in the Sprint Cup standings, has one win this season, and a career best finish of sixth at Talladega in the Fall of 2006. Busch should hopefully improve his dreary average finishing position of 31.7 at Talladega.

The top-five starting positions saw three cars that needed to qualifying in on time and two Chevy's with three Toyota's.

The highest qualifying Ford was the No. 6 of David Ragan in sixth position. Ragan clocked in with a 51.400 (186.303 mph), just over one mile per hour slower than the lap posted by pole-sitter Nemechek.

Seventh was the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin with a 51.401 (186.300 mph). Eighth was the No. 83 of Brian Vickers with a 51.435 (186.177 mph). Ninth was the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a 51.491 (185.974 mph), and in tenth was the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson with a 51.529 (185.837 mph).

Only one Ford qualified in the top-ten and all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries qualified in the top-seven.

It was also the first time that Red Bull Racing had two cars qualify in the top-ten together.

Jon Wood, who is making his Sprint Cup debut this season after only making one start in 2007 qualified 12th with a 51.618 (185.517 mph).

In the No. 28 Ford, Travis Kvapil qualified 14th after earning a sponsor for this race. Kvapil clocked in with a 51.627 (185.484 mph).

Kyle Petty in the No. 45 was the highest qualifying Dodge for this weekends race. Petty qualified 15th with a 51.628 (185.481 mph) and made a nice rebound after missing last weeks race. Petty sits 43rd in Owner Points and looks to make up some ground on 35th this week.

Owner James Finch got the No. 109 of Sterling Marlin into this weeks race by qualifying 16th overall with a 51.677 (185.305 mph). Marlin and Finch had to qualify their car in on time this week as they sat 52nd in Owner Points coming into Talladega.

Patrick Carpentier, who currently sits 41st in Owner Points for the No. 10 Dodge qualified 17th with a 51.689 (185.262 mph). Carpentier was also the highest qualifying rookie for Sunday's race.

Four time series champion Jeff Gordon struggled in qualifying and wound up 20th with a 51.756 (185.022 mph).

Regan Smith in the No. 01 DEI Chevrolet qualified 29th and is currently on the bubble in Owner Points. Smith's No. 01 is currently 35th overall in Owner Points, and is only three points ahead of 36th place, driven by J.J. Yeley in the No. 96 Toyota. Fortunately for Smith and unfortunately for Yeley, the No. 96 Toyota did not qualify for Sunday's race. Also worth note, the No. 22 Toyota driven by Dave Blaney for Bill Davis Racing failed to qualify for this event. Blaney and BDR were 37th in Owner Points.

P.J. Jones, who is subbing for Robby Gordon in the No. 7 Dodge, qualified 35th with a 52.094 (183.822 mph) while R. Gordon is competing in the Central Europe Rally. R. Gordon will fly overnight and start at the rear of the field for Sunday's Cup Race.

Jeff Burton qualified 38th, Kevin Harvick 39th, and usually quick qualifier at Talladega, David Gilliland 40th.

Clint Bowyer qualified 41st, Kasey Kahne 42nd, and Dario Franchitti was the last car to qualify in on time with a 51.730 (185.115 mph).

Three cars did not make the race and they were the No. 22 of Blaney, the No. 96 of Yeley, and the No. 34 of John Andretti.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes to the high banks of Talladega Sunday afternoon.

Editor's note:
Good luck on making the grid for Sunday's Cup race turned sour for Franchitti on the 11th lap of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race today. The Scotsman will miss Sunday's race and possibly other Cup races in the near future.

The result of the accident has left Franchitti with a fracture in his left ankle. He will be a have further evaluation next week. A replacement driver for the No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing entry has yet to be named.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Jimmie Johnson , Jon Wood , Kasey Kahne , A.J. Allmendinger , J.J. Yeley , P.J. Jones , Brian Vickers , Regan Smith , Chip Ganassi , Clint Bowyer , David Gilliland , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Dave Blaney , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil
Teams Red Bull Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Furniture Row Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing