LONG POND, Pa. — Joey Logano may have left some speed on the race track, but he had enough on Saturday afternoon to win the pole for Sunday’s Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR at newly repaved Pocono Raceway.
In a qualifying session that saw 36 drivers break Kasey Kahne’s 2004 track record of 172.533 mph, Logano was fastest, collecting his first Coors Light pole award of the season and the fourth of his career. Unlike most drivers who followed him in the qualifying order, Logano backed up his Sprint-Cup-Series-best time from Friday’s final practice session at the 2.5-mile triangular track.
Logano covered the distance in 50.112 seconds (179.598 mph), beating Carl Edwards for the top starting spot by .205 seconds. Edwards (178.866 mph) will start second ahead of Paul Menard (178.582 mph), and Logano’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Kyle Busch (178.575 mph) and Denny Hamlin (178.543 mph).
Hamlin, a four-time race winner at Pocono, was ahead of Logano’s pace until an oil line broke on his No. 11 Toyota as he entered Turn 3. Hamlin skated in his own oil and lost his advantage as he completed the lap.
Turn 1 was a problem area, with oil-dry from Friday afternoon’s ARCA practice covering the racing groove. Logano felt he lost a little momentum in the corner, but the lap stood up.
“The track was dirty,” Logano said. “When I went out there and got to that trouble spot, I got loose a little bit and didn’t get to the bottom as well as I wanted to. So I felt like I left a tenth and a half (of a second) or so right there, but I felt like I nailed (Turns) 2 and 3 pretty well.
“I was hoping it would be in the top five, and it ended up being good enough.”
Conventional wisdom, even as the session progressed, was that the 50-second barrier (180 mph) would fall. But Logano went out 18th and waited as his time stood up to the 26 drivers who succeeded him in the qualifying order.
Edwards was at a loss to explain why times weren’t faster during a session that began in cool overcast and ended with the sun peeking through the layer of clouds.
“I think it’s really hard to determine what makes this track faster right now,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if being a little warmer makes it faster. I thought, as we went on and that speedy-dry and the groove got cleaned off, that people would go a lot faster, so it’s a surprise to me.”
Menard characterized the time trials as the most important of the year so far, given the importance of track position in Sunday’s race. After three days of testing and practice, drivers had to lay down one lap on Saturday, with no margin for error.
“I’m actually surprised we went that fast, with not being on the track all day,” Menard said.
Notes: Series leader Greg Biffle and second-place Matt Kenseth will start 13th and 14th, respectively. David Stremme brushed the wall off Turn 1 on his first qualifying lap and failed to make the 43-car field.