Joey Logano earns pole position for NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono
It won’t be Denny Hamlin or Jeff Gordon out front early at the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 on Sunday -- not Jimmie Johnson or Tony Stewart either.
Leading the way as the race begins will be Joey Logano, a young driver whose lap time of 52.309 seconds in qualifying on Saturday earned him the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Pocono Raceway today.
"Obviously starting up front with clean air is worth a million bucks here," said Logano, who became the youngest pole-winner in the history of Pocono Raceway at 21 years, 2 months and 13 days. "Being able to start up front and getting a good pit stall -- all of that stuff is going to help us out a lot for Sunday. I’m pretty pumped up about that."
Logano, who posted an average speed of 172.055 mph in his pole-winning lap, currently sits in 19th place in the Sprint Cup standings and is still looking for a win in 2011.
He gave a level of credit for his lap to the presence of Hamlin, a four-time winner at Pocono and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
"He’s proven to be pretty good here," Logano said with a laugh, "so it definitely helps to talk to him and just pick his brain [about] what he works on here, what he does with the race car, how he drives it — all of that stuff definitely helps out a lot."
Kasey Kahne will start next to Logano in second. Kahne is the driver whom Logano supplanted as the youngest pole-winner at Pocono.
Although he lost that distinction, Kahne can still boast of having the fastest qualifying time in Pocono history -- his 2004 record-setting lap time of 52.1639 seconds is still the standard.
"It’s definitely good to start up front here," Kahne said. "I think it helps a little bit. This race is so long … being up front early on isn’t everything, but it’s definitely not a bad thing."
However, he enters Sunday’s race at 15th in the standings and does not have a win yet this year, a fact he’s well aware of given the wild-card spot’s focus on first-place finishes.
"I don’t think we’ve put that entire race together and that’s something that we’re working hard at," Kahne said, “but the wild card is getting close to being our only chance of making the Chase.
"If we can win one, stay consistent and keep the points then I think we’ll have a shot at that."
Martin Truex Jr. rounds out the improbable top three starters for today’s race. A native of Mayetta, N.J., Truex has been coming to Pocono since he was a young boy.
Although he never saw a Sprint Cup race here, he is familiar enough with Pocono to call it one of his home tracks. Both his father and uncle raced here, which makes this experience a fun one for Truex.
"Everybody knows how tricky Pocono is to get around," Truex said. "It’s very, very tough to get your car around in all three corners.
"I’m proud of my guys and it’s nice to be starting up front here at Pocono. It’s very important to do that and I feel like we’ve got a good race car so I’m excited about [today]."
--Mark Emery, reporting from Long Pond, Pa.
Photo: Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, stands by his car on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday. Credit: Geoff Burke / Getty Images for NASCAR