Nemechek zips past favorite to claim rare pole

Associated Press
Joe Nemechek: The veteran will start on the pole for the first time since 2005 and the fourth time at Talladega in today's race.

TALLADEGA, Ala. --- It's been all about Tony Stewart at Talladega Superspeedway, where he's planted himself inside the spotlight by entering free agency.

He's backed up the high level of interest being shown in NASCAR's two-time champion with strong runs on the race track, including a stout qualifying lap Saturday that seemed to lock down the pole position.

Some three hours later, Joe Nemechek stole his thunder.

Nemechek, the 46th of 47 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, knocked Stewart off the pole with a lap of 187.386 mph. It was the first pole since 2005, a span of 93 races, for "Front Row Joe," and was his fourth career pole at Talladega -- best among active drivers.

Nemechek credited his Furniture Row Racing team, a single-car operation based out of Denver, N.C., which prepared a car that had to qualify on speed to make today's race. Nemechek is ranked 42nd in the points, and has missed two of eight races this season.

"It takes a lot of work and a lot of innovative thinking to get your cars to go fast, and to get them through the air," Nemechek said. "It's paying attention to all the details. The cool thing about us is we're just a small team. We don't have that many employees."

Stewart, a six-time runner-up at Talladega, had to settle for the second starting spot. His 186.896 held almost the entire session.

Stewart has now qualified inside the top 10 in eight of his 19 starts at Talladega. He finally claimed his first win at the track in Saturday's Nationwide Series race.


After Saturday qualifying; race today

At Talladega Superspeedway

Lap length: 2.66 miles

1. (78) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 187.386.

2. (20) Tony Stewart, Toyota, 186.896.

3. (70) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet, 186.499.

4. (84) AJ Allmendinger, Toyota, 186.423.

5. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 186.416.

6. (6) David Ragan, Ford, 186.304.

7. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 186.300.

8. (83) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 186.177.

9. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 185.974.

10. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 185.837.

11. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 185.704.

12. (21) Jon Wood, Ford, 185.517.

13. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 185.502.

14. (28) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 185.484.

15. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 185.481.

16. (09) Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet, 185.305.

17. (10) Patrick Carpentier, Dodge, 185.262.

18. (19) Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 185.187.

19. (66) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 185.061.

20. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 185.022.

21. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 184.929.

22. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 184.818.

23. (2) Kurt Busch, Dodge, 184.811.

24. (00) Michael McDowell, Toyota, 184.758.

25. (41) Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 184.701.

26. (42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge, 184.619.

27. (55) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 184.619.

28. (8) Aric Almirola, Chevrolet, 184.601.

29. (01) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 184.452.

30. (44) David Reutimann, Toyota, 184.377.

31. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 184.289.

32. (26) Jamie McMurray, Ford, 184.048.

33. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 184.019.

34. (43) Bobby Labonte, Dodge, 184.019.

35. (7) P.J. Jones, Dodge, 183.822.

36. (5) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 183.751.

37. (77) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 183.744.

38. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 183.716.

39. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, points

40. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, points

41. (07) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, points

42. (9) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, points

43. (40) Dario Franchitti, Dodge, 185.115.

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