Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole of his young career with a 189.688 mph lap, and leads off Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It was a huge victory overall for Roush Fenway Racing, as Stenhouse’s teammate Carl Edwards posted the second fastest lap and will start in the first row next to the 25-year-old.
Juan Pablo Montoya posted the third fastest lap, followed by Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon.
Four-time Cup winner Gordon, along with defending champion Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch, are just on the outside of the Chase. The standings currently show Keselowski 11th, then Busch and Gordon, but neither has a victory this season -- a huge disadvantage to grabbing two of the wild card spots with two races left until the Chase.
Martin Truex Jr., who starts from the seventh row at Atlanta, is only 18 points behind Keselowski and already earned a victory in Sonoma back in June. Then there’s Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman sitting four points behind Newman and a victor at the Brickyard 400.
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Both put serious pressure on Keselowski, Busch and Gordon to perform on Sunday and next week in Richmond. Of the three, Keselowski has the most top five finishes with seven this year, and he’ll start at the No. 23 slot. Busch is way back in the 32nd row.
The weather doesn’t appear favorable to any driver. The forecast predicts scattered thunderstorms to begin a half hour before start time, and isolated storms continuing throughout the night.
The race begins at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally by ESPN, and a live online stream is available on Watch ESPN here.
1.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3.Juan Pablo Montoya
7.Martin Truex Jr.
8.Dale Earnhardt Jr.