NASCAR Kentucky 2013 qualifying results: Earnhardt sets track record, wins pole

Todd Warshaw

Dale Earnhardt Jr. sets Kentucky track record in pole-winning run.

Don't tell Dale Earnhardt Jr. you can't catch a cloud.

With a fast car and a fortuitous mass of cumulus to help cool Kentucky Speedway during Friday's time trials, Earnhardt put together a track-record pole-winning run for Saturday night's Quaker State 400, the 17th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the season. It was the eighth track qualifying record set this year.

Earnhardt sped around the 1.5-mile track at 183.636 mph to edge Carl Edwards (183.306 mph), who was one slight twitch off Turn 2 away from challenging for the top starting spot. Jimmie Johnson (183.144 mph) qualified third, followed by 2011 Kentucky winner Kyle Busch (182.593 mph) and Marcos Ambrose (182.587 mph).

The Coors Light Pole award was the 12th of Earnhardt's career, his first at Kentucky and his first since September 2012 at Richmond.

"We thought we had a top-five car in practice, and we got some good cloud cover about six or seven cars in front of us before we went to qualify, and that brought the track temp down to give us a good advantage," Earnhardt said. "It gave us a good opportunity to run a bit quicker lap than maybe what the car had in it. ...

"Of course, cooler track temp gives a car more grip, and I would admit that I think we definitely had the better situation. ... And I did think the lap was really good. I got into Turn 1 a little bit over-zealous, but the car actually was working a little better as far as turning through the middle than it was in practice. (Turns) 3 and 4 was just a really good corner."

Early in the session, Johnson shot to the top of the board with a lap at 183.144 mph, breaking the record 181.818 mph he set during time trials last year. But the five-time champion's tenure at the top of the mountain was short.

With a helpful cloud covering a track that already was cooling as the ambient temperature declined, Earnhardt covered the distance in 29.406 seconds and knocked his Hendrick Motorsports teammate off the provisional pole.

Edwards, the 34th driver to make a qualifying attempt, ran .006 seconds faster than Johnson to break up the Hendrick front row.

Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, 2012 race winner Brad Keselowski, Brian Vickers and Juan Pablo Montoya will start from positions six through 10, respectively.

Quaker State 400 Starting Lineup

1) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2) Carl Edwards

3) Jimmie Johnson

4) Kyle Busch

5) Marcos Ambrose

6) Denny Hamlin

7) Ryan Newman

8) Brad Keselowski

9) Brian Vickers

10) Juan Pablo Montoya

11) Joey Logano

12) Jeff Gordon

13) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

14) Jeff Burton

15) Clint Bowyer

16) Matt Kenseth

17) AJ Allmendinger

18) Aric Almirola

19) Martin Truex Jr.

20) Greg Biffle

21) Kasey Kahne

22) Kevin Harvick

23) Jamie McMurray

24) Paul Menard

25) Tony Stewart

26) Austin Dillon

27) Kurt Busch

28) David Stremme

29) Danica Patrick

30) Landon Cassill

31) Casey Mears

32) Dave Blaney

33) Michael McDowell

34) David Gilliland

35) JJ Yeley

36) David Reutimann

37) Josh Wise

38) David Ragan

39) Mike Bliss

40) Travis Kvapil

41) Joe Nemechek

42) Ken Schrader

43) Scott Riggs

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