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Stewart scores Charlotte Cup pole, his first of 2011

October 13, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

CONCORD, N.C -- Tony Stewart won the pole for Saturday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet had some anxious moments as he watched 10 drivers try -- and fail -- to beat his top speed of 191.959 mph.

The 36th driver to make a qualifying attempt during Thursday's time trials, Stewart watched as those 10 drivers, all of whom had posted faster times during Thursday's practice, failed to knock him off the pole.

The Coors Light Pole Award was Stewart's first of the season, the 13th of his career and his first since July 2010 at Pocono.

Matt Kenseth (191.918 mph) will start beside Stewart on the front row in the fifth Chase for the Sprint Cup race. Series points leader Carl Edwards (191.870 mph) qualified third, followed by A.J. Allmendinger (191.768 mph) and Greg Biffle (191.741 mph), as Ford drivers claimed the next four starting spots behind Stewart.

Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will start from positions six through 10, respectively.

Stewart was surprised that qualifying speeds didn't increase significantly from practice.

"I was watching guys' lap times, and looking at the sheet to seeing what they practiced, and it wasn't as much [of an increase] as what we've seen," Stewart said. "I think, obviously, we've had a lot of cloud cover today and cool temperatures here the last couple of days, so I don't think the track changed as much and got as hot during the day as what we typically see here.

"I think that's the reason that we didn't have the big pick-ups. But you still anticipate that, at night, the guys are going to pick up speed. It just seems like the air's a little muggier right now. I don't know whether that hurt horsepower or even created more drag and kind of evened everything out."

Five of the top 10 qualifiers -- Stewart, Kenseth, Edwards, Newman and Johnson -- are Chase drivers. The other seven drivers eligible for the championship will start as follows: Kevin Harvick, 14th; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 15th, Denny Hamlin, 17th; Kurt Busch, 20th; Jeff Gordon, 23rd; Kyle Busch, 25th; and Brad Keselowski, 26th.

Because practice speeds had been high in the afternoon, there were expectations that Elliott Sadler's track record of 193.216 mph might fall. Edwards had the best chance; he was on pace to break 28 seconds but his car tightened up in Turns 3 and 4 and cost him the speed necessary to win the pole.

"I came to the green [to start the run] and I had a ton of grip in [Turns} 3 and 4, so I was real excited to get back to 3 and 4 to do that again," Edwards said. "And on the qualifying lap, I just got tight down there. I was just too aggressive, I think.

"But if I had it to do over again ... I thought that the pole was going to be so fast that I don't know if I could make myself slow down. If I could do it again, I think I could definitely run a little faster than we ran, but I'm sure everybody could say the same thing -- so that was the best I could do."


• Tony Stewart scores his 14th career Cup Series pole in his 459th race.
• Tony Stewart becomes the 18th pole-sitter of 2011 and ties the modern era record for the most different pole winners (1997, 2001, 2007, 2010).
• Tony Stewart has won twice from the pole; the last time was at Daytona in 2005.
• Matt Kenseth (second) scores his best start at Charlotte in his 25th start.
• Carl Edwards (third) scores his third consecutive top-three start at Charlotte.
• A.J. Allmendinger (fourth) scores his fourth top-five start this season and his third consecutive top-five at Charlotte.
• Greg Biffle (fifth) is the third Roush Fenway driver in the top-five.
• Kasey Kahne (eighth) was the fastest in practice and the only Toyota driver in the top 15.
• Trevor Bayne (10th) scores his second top-10 start this season in his 14th start; Saturday marks his first Cup start at Charlotte.
• Jimmie Johnson is the most recent driver to win from the pole (October 2009).
• Lowest starting position of a Charlotte race winner: 37th (Jimmie Johnson - May 2003).

Josh Wise, Scott Speed and Geoffrey Bodine failed to qualify for the 43-car field.