Martin Truex Jr. wins NASCAR pole at Pocono Raceway
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) Martin Truex Jr. has one of his four career Sprint Cup wins at Pocono Raceway.
He added his 10th career pole, too.
Truex extended Toyota's recent romp, and turned a lap of 179.244 mph to win the pole Friday.
Truex and Carl Edwards made it a 1-2 Toyota front row. Edwards just missed the top spot for Joe Gibbs Racing with a lap of 178.873 and he thought his No. 19 Toyota might have had enough to best Truex's chart-topping speed.
''That must have felt really good because mine was great,'' Edwards said.
Toyota has 10 wins this season and nine in the last 15 races, highlighted by consecutive wins by JGR drivers Matt Kenseth at New Hampshire and Kyle Busch last weekend at the Brickyard.
''It's a really neat time to be driving a Toyota for Joe Gibbs,'' Edwards said. ''Hopefully, we can keep this rolling.''
Truex won his third pole of the season in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota and the 10th of his career. His win this season at Charlotte Motor Speedway might have been the most dominant performance by any Toyota driver in a race in years.
Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman completed the top five.
Driving for Richard Childress Racing, Menard posted the surprise performances of the day at Pocono. Menard has just two top-10 finishes all season and showed no signs of developing into a threat for making the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
But a crew chief switch might make the difference.
Menard topped the lone practice chart in his first race weekend with crew chief Danny Stockman. RCR dumped Justin Alexander for Stockman for Menard's stretch run.
Stockman has won two Xfinity championships during his seven years at RCR and he and Menard worked together in that series, including a win last year at Road America.
Menard made Sprint Cup's championship chase last year, but stands 23rd - and out of the playoffs - with just six races left in the regular season.
''RCR as a whole, we don't like to suck,'' Stockman said. ''We have been really digging hard as a company to not suck. It's not fun. Your people get beat down. Everybody at the shop, we have all the tools to do this right.''
RCR had a rare stout day at the track, with three drivers in top 12. Austin Dillon was 12th.
Here are other items of note from Friday at Pocono:
Brad Keselowski starts seventh only days after he was involved in a brutal wreck during a test session at Watkins Glen.
He slammed nose-first into a protective tire barrier coming out of the first turn and tore up the entire front end of the No. 2 Ford. The Team Penske driver walked away unhurt and he blamed an improperly installed brake line on the crash.
Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, said the latest wreck at The Glen has him concerned about the safety of drivers on road course tracks.
''There's only so many of those hits you're gonna take before someone gets killed,'' Keselowski said. ''It's just the way it is. I know that. It's not something I'm comfortable with. ... Odds are, that if 100 people take that hit, one or two are not gonna be standing here anymore.''
Six-time Pocono winner Jeff Gordon qualified - yup, 24th - in his second race driving for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt missed his third straight race because of concussion-like symptoms and there is no timetable for his return.
Gordon came out of retirement to drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet. His familiar No. 24 now belongs to fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott.
Earnhardt warned Monday that his return to NASCAR could take longer than planned.
''I wish Dale a speedy recovery. I'd like him to be back in the car,'' Gordon said. ''But at the same time if he's not, I feel like each time I'm in the car I'll be more confident and comfortable to get better results.''
Cup qualifying was pushed back about 20 minutes because of a glitch in the Laser Inspection Station. Several cars had not passed inspection when qualifying was scheduled to start. Kyle Busch did not pass inspection until the final minutes of the first round of qualifying.
Kevin Harvick starts 17th with Dax Gerringer serving as his interim crew chief.
NASCAR suspended Rodney Childers for an improperly installed lug nut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Childers is the fifth crew chief suspended over a lug nut rule instituted by NASCAR earlier this season. The rule was put in place because teams were not applying all five lug nuts properly in an effort to have faster pit stops.
Gerringer is Harvick's race engineer.