Ricky Stenhouse Jr. powers to Talladega pole ahead of Earnhardt

TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 06: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award decal after qualifying for the pole position for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 6, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been enjoying some resurgence along with his Roush-Fenway Racing team this season. After struggling for several seasons the team is making forward strides this year and that story continued Saturday as Stenhouse put his Roush-Fenway Ford on the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

“It’ll be nice to lead the field to green here,” Stenhouse said.  “Jimmy Fennig has done a great job on these speedway cars.  This is cool.  Doug Yates builds awesome horsepower.  With his dad, Robert, not doing as well as we would like, it would be cool to dedicate this one to him and all the hard work that the engine shop does.  Man, it’s a cool way to start the weekend.  I’m ready to get to Sunday.”

Stenhouse who led the first of two rounds of single car qualifying, backed up his first round run with a lap of 49.99,191.547 miles per hour. His pole winning run came at the expense of fan favorite, and six-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Earnhardt, who announced last week that this will be his final full time season in NASCAR was also second in the first round.

“Yeah, I’m pretty happy,” Earnhardt said.  “Great lap by (Ricky) Stenhouse and the Roush guys they did a really good job today.  Thrilled with our car, good speed and it would have been nice to get a pole.  Probably could have sat down and talked to Rick (Hendrick) about running the Clash or something, but let’s see if we can’t try to get another one later on this year.”

The lap that put him on the front row comes a day after Earnhardt complained in Friday’s rain shortened practice that he was unhappy with his Chevy. Saturday, he remained aloof when asked if he was happy with his car.

“If I am I ain’t going to let my team know about it,” Earnhardt quipped.  “I don’t want them to stop working.”

Brad Keselowski will start third, with Matt Kenseth one of the few drivers to improve from the first round starting fourth.  Stenhouse’s teammate Trevor Bayne starts fifth.

The pole was the second of Stenhouse’s career, the last coming in the fall of 2013 at Atlanta. It continues the upward trend for the team.

“We plan to keep getting better and continue to bring better race cars to the track and go out there and lay it all on the line like we do every week,” Stenhouse said. “It’s been really fun to drive, real special.  There are a lot of good people at Roush Fenway right now.”

Kevin Harvick also improved from his 11th place in the first round and will start sixth. Daniel Suarez making his Talladega Cup debut starts seventh. Chase Elliott, Paul Menard, and Kyle Busch, round out the top 10. Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were the final two cars to move to the final round and will start 11th and 12th respectively.  With four spots open to non-charter teams and five open team, DJ Kennington was the only driver to not make the 40-car field.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Geico 500 at Talladega will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on Fox.

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