Logano sets record en route to Pocono pole

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LONG POND, Pa. — Thanks to a repave that led to blistering speeds, Pocono Raceway’s track record was topped 36 times Saturday.

Joey Logano had the fastest speed of them all.

Logano turned a lap of 179.598 mph to set the track record during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono. It is his first pole of the season and his fourth in 125 career Sprint Cup starts.

He drove the No. 20 Toyota around the 2½-mile track in 50.112 seconds.

“It’s cool to get a pole here,” Logano said. “A new track record, too.”

Logano went out 18th out of 44 cars and waited for about 45 minutes until the final qualifying lap was turned and he could celebrate. Kasey Kahne held the record of 172.533 mph set June 11, 2004. Consider this: Kahne starts 10th today and went 177.823 mph.

Carl Edwards will join Logano on the front row for the 400-mile race. Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

Joe Gibbs Racing put Logano, Busch and Hamlin in the top five.

Drivers have raved about a repave that points leader Greg Biffle said was “glass smooth at 200 mph.”

Pocono had absorbed decades of criticism from drivers who said the race was too long, outdated and unsafe. Pocono cut the race to 400 miles for the two Cup races this season, and recent safety upgrades have drivers suddenly raving about the track.

The pole continues a recent uptick of solid results for Logano. Only 22, Logano is entering a make-or-break season at JGR in the final year of a four-year deal. He’s insisted in the past that his contract status has not added pressure. Considered a phenom when he broke into NASCAR, Logano’s lone Cup win came in 2009.

He’s fared much better on the second-tier Nationwide Series. Logano has 13 career Nationwide wins, four this season, including last week at Dover International Speedway.

INDYCAR: In Fort Worth, Texas, Justin Wilson, who started 17th, won for the first time since 2009 when Graham Rahal hit the wall while leading the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Rahal seemed headed to his first win in more than five years, but he grazed the wall exiting the fourth turn. Rahal tried to keep going, and Wilson charged past him with two to go to get his third IndyCar Series win.

Rahal held on for second as Honda drivers took the first two spots. Ryan Briscoe was third for Chevrolet.

FORMULA ONE: In Montreal, Sebastian Vettel earned pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, taking the fastest qualifying time at the Circuit Gilles Ville­neuve for the second year in a row. Lewis Hamilton also will be in the front row for today’s race on the 2.71-mile course on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal. Fernando Alonso was third in qualifying.

Vettel started on the pole last year and led almost all of the 2011 race, which was delayed repeatedly by downpours. But he skidded in the slightly on the final trip down the backstretch and was passed by Jenson Button.


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