Marcos Ambrose sets restrictor-plate-era qualifying record at Michigan

 

Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Australian Marcos Ambrose has a new distinction — he’s the fastest thing in a NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car in 25 years.

With a record-setting run Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, Ambrose won the pole for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, leading 18 other drivers who broke the 200-mph barrier and 38 others who topped Ryan Newman’s previous track record of 194.232 mph, set in 2005.

Ambrose claimed the first Coors Light pole award of his career with a lap at 203.241 mph (35.426 seconds), beating second-place qualifier Kevin Harvick (202.037 mph) by .211 seconds. But Ambrose didn’t have long to enjoy it.

Because of tire blistering at high speeds during testing and practice on Thursday and Friday, Goodyear had mandated change to a harder left-side tire after qualifying. Cup teams were set to practice on the new tires late Saturday afternoon in preparation for Sunday’s race.

Greg Biffle, whose top practice speed on Friday was a series-best 204.708 mph, qualified third on Saturday at 201.816 mph.

Kasey Kahne (201.720 mph) and Newman (201.472 mph) completed the top five. Series leader Matt Kenseth will start sixth on Sunday after a lap at 201.461 mph.

Ambrose’s lap was the fastest run in the series since Bill Elliott posted 203.827 mph at Talladega in 1987, the last year the series ran at Daytona and Talladega without restrictor plates. It was the fastest lap ever run at a speedway other and Daytona and Talladega and the 11th-fastest in series history.

Ambrose is the fourth driver to win a pole at a speed in excess of 200 mph, joining Benny Parsons, Cale Yarborough and Bill Elliott.

“It is good bragging right — I’ll give it that,” Ambrose said. “I’m just really excited to get the speed, and to claim to be the fastest guy out there is just awesome. We’ve missed some poles — this is my first pole in Sprint Cup — we’ve missed some by thousandths of a second and conditions changing, so it’s good that we actually got one to stick, and one that’s got so many records attached to it.

“It felt that fast to me, too. It felt like I was getting it done. Really fun times out there. When you get onto the frontstretch, and you gain about 100 RPM in a mile, you know that you got everything you could out of the corner. We were wide open for about 98 percent of the lap, and I felt very good about how we got the car dialed in to do that.”

Notes: Dale Earnhardt Jr., second in the series standings, will start 17th on Sunday… David Stremme and Stacy Compton failed to make the 43-car field.

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