HAMPTON, Ga. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wanted to run against the outside wall during pole qualifying Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway; car owner Jack Roush wanted him to hug the bottom line.
Roush got his way and Stenhouse got the pole for Sunday’s AdvoCare 500.
A lap of 189.688 mph gave Stenhouse, who this year has gained as much notoriety for being Danica Patrick’s boyfriend, his first Sprint Cup Series pole position.
While it took a lot of nerve to stay in the gas all the way around the 1.54-mile racetrack and a fast car to make it happen, Roush got a big assist by suggesting the rookie driver change is strategy.
“We were sitting in the trailer after practice and I decided whoever’s on the pole, wherever they ran, that’s where I was going to run,” Stenhouse said. “(Roush) said that’s not what he wanted to me to do. He wanted me to run the bottom. I did it and it stuck.”
Juan Pablo Montoya will start Sunday’s race from third, followed Denny Hamlin in fourth, Jeff Gordon in fifth, Matt Kenseth in sixth, Martin Truex Jr. in seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in eighth, Kyle Busch in ninth and Jimmie Johnson in 10th.
VACANCIES FILLED: Three rides for 2014 were locked up Friday.
A.J. Allmendinger was introduced as the new driver for JTG Daugherty’s No. 47 Toyota, while Nationwide Series rookie Kyle Larson was hired to replace Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chevrolet at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Justin Allgaier will move into the No. 51 for new owner Harry Scott.
Larson’s hiring was a surprise considering he has limited experience with 23 career Nationwide and six Camping World Truck series starts.
“It’s definitely been quite a whirlwind,” the 21-year-old driver said. “I understand it’s probably going to be the toughest step in my whole career.”
Larson admitted he will face a lot of scrutiny because of his age and lack of NASCAR experience – especially since he’s in such a high-profile car.
At the same time, he said he plans to use that as motivation.
“I’d like to prove the people that don’t think I’m ready for it wrong,” Larson said. “The guys that think I am ready, let them pump their chest out a little bit.”
Earlier this week Kurt Busch also signed a multi-year contract to drive a fourth car next season at Stewart-Haas Racing.
With seats filled, openings in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet and a possible fourth car at Richard Childress Racing still remain. The top candidates are Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte.
Newman remains the leading candidate at Childress. Martin may address his future Saturday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, and one of his options could be retirement.
PIT STOP: When asked about next year’s lineup at Stewart-Haas Racing, including three of the most-emotional and driven people in the sport – Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick reminded everyone of her role in 2014, saying “There is a girl, too.”