RICHMOND, Va. – With the sun slowly setting this evening at Richmond International Raceway, Juan Pablo Montoya captured his second pole of the season, nudging out Regan Smith for the honor. The track speeds seemed to favor the latter part of the qualifying lineup, as seven of the top-10 positions were captured by drivers that went out 25th or later. Montoya, who went out 34th, backed up his series-leading Happy Hour time, clocking in at 128.639 mph to register the seventh pole of his career.
Smith continued his 2011 success with his career-best qualifying run, putting him alongside Montoya for the start of 57th Annual Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400 in Richmond. Heading into this weekend, Smith led all drivers this season with an average qualifying position of seventh – a number that will only improve after today’s performance.
Clint Bowyer was the top qualifier from Richard Childress Racing and will start from the third position. His teammate Paul Menard will start 10th while Kevin Harvick, who was runner-up in final practice, qualified 12th.
Further up the running order, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five starters. This marks the best qualifying run for Kahne thus far in 2011, a dramatic difference from teammate Brian Vickers, who wound up 37th fastest.
One of the biggest surprises in qualifying came from none other than David Stremme, making his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with newly-formed Inception Motorsports. Stremme piloted his No. 30 Chevrolet around the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval at a speed of 127.401 mph to lead all the go-or-go homers and will start 16th.
A quick review of our top 10 to start tomorrow night’s (April 30) race:
1) Juan Pablo Montoya – 128.639 mph
2) Regan Smith – 128.382
3) Clint Bowyer – 128.272
4) Kasey Kahne – 128.150
5) Mark Martin – 128.053
6) Jeff Gordon – 128.011
7) Brad Keselowski – 128.011
8) Carl Edwards – 128.005
9) Joey Logano – 127.980
10) Paul Menard – 127.956
After blowing his engine on the first lap of final Cup practice, JJ Yeley rebounded during his qualifying run to make the field; he will start from 40th position.
Rookie Brian Keselowski was the only driver that did not qualify for the race. Some notable drivers that will start 25th or worse include Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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