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Ambrose claims Coors Light Pole at Watkins Glen

August 10, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com

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Marcos Ambrose won the Coors Light Pole Award in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying with a track-record lap of 128.241 mph at Watkins Glen International.

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The pole position was Ambrose’s first of the season, first at the 2.45-mile road course and third of his career. He’ll start first in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen (1 p.m. ET, ESPN), the 22nd event of the 26-race regular season.

"For anyone that wanted to look at the stats this has not been the best qualifying track for me, so I’m proud of today," Ambrose said. "I think that getting the pole was awesome. The car certainly felt great and felt like it was up to the challenge, so I think that bodes really well for tomorrow."

Ambrose was the fastest of 10 drivers who broke the previous qualifying record of 127.020 mph, set by Juan Pablo Montoya last August. It marked the 12th time this season that a track record has fallen, thanks to the advent of the lighter, fastest sixth generation of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car this year.

"These new Gen-6 race cars are a lot faster around here and the speeds are record speeds," Ambrose said. "The cars still handle with the same issues that we normally have here, but certainly we’re just going faster when we encounter those problems. I think the new car really suits this race track. I think it’s more comfortable for the drivers to be aggressive, and today I was very aggressive today to try to throw down a fast lap. We were the lucky one on the day to get the pole, so I’m very proud of our day."

Clint Bowyer will start second in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota after a lap of 127.958 mph. Martin Truex Jr. -- Bowyer's MWR teammate and a winner earlier in the year at Sonoma Raceway, the other road course on the Sprint Cup schedule -- qualified third. AJ Allmendinger and Kyle Busch completed the top five.

Bowyer has become a road-course prodigy of late, winning at Sonoma last year and finishing fourth in his last outing at the Glen.

"These road courses have become something I look forward to -- I never thought I’d say that," Bowyer said before confessing that his lap was fraught with tension. "Fear and being scared is a big part of that -- just trying not to mess up, man. You’ve got one lap to get it all. Look how many opportunities you have to mess up out there."

Max Papis, subbing for the injured Tony Stewart, qualified 29th in the 43-car field for his first Sprint Cup start since August 2010. Series leader Jimmie Johnson, who carries a 77-point lead into Sunday's race, qualified 18th.

The qualifying session was the second in the history of the Sprint Cup tour to use the European-style, group qualifying format for road courses. Drivers hit the track in eight groups of five or six cars. The series debuted the new qualifying system at Sonoma in June.

Brian Keselowski spun at the end of the first qualifying group, sliding to a stop in the Turn 5 retaining wall. He will start last in Sunday’s 220.5-mile race.

With 43 drivers competing for 43 starting spots, no drivers failed to qualify.

Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service

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