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Juan Pablo Montoya takes NASCAR Sprint Cup pole at Pocono

Juan Pablo Montoya claimed pole position for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono, setting an early benchmark that stood unbeaten for the rest of the session

The Earnhardt Ganassi driver produced a time of 51.124 seconds, at an average speed of 176.043 mph, improving on the previous best set by Phoenix Racing's Kurt Busch to claim his first pole since April 2011.

The Colombian was only the 16th driver in the order to set his qualifying lap but as track temperatures increased the fastest drivers of Friday's sessions were unable to get close to their best from practice.

"It's big, this is a huge boost for everybody in the team," said Montoya, currently 21st in Cup points. "We've been working so hard and we really needed a little bit of light.

"We know we're working in the right direction and we feel the cars have been getting a little better but to actually get out there and get a pole... I've seen a lot of long and stressful faces and we really needed something like this as a company."

He added: "Do we have the fastest car out there? No. But qualifying is the same as racing. You've just got to make the right calls and do whatever it takes to get it done and that's what we did."

Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, who revealed on Friday that he is set to be a father next January, ran early in the order as well and ended up with a front-row starting position, ahead of Paul Menard, also an early runner, who was forced to a back-up car on Friday after an incident at the end of the day's first session.

Hendrick Motorsports' Kasey Kahne was the fastest of the late runners and got the fourth starting spot for Sunday ahead of Richard Petty's Marcos Ambrose while Friday's pacesetter and points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr was eighth ahead of Stewart-Haas' Ryan Newman and Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson, who was fastest in the opening practice of the weekend.

Jeff Gordon, a five-time Pocono winner, was the only Hendrick driver to qualify outside the top 10 after slightly brushing the wall during his flying lap.

Mike Bliss was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 30th while Stephen Leicht failed to make the field.

Jason White got behind the wheel of the #32 car, replacing John Wes Townley who was originally set to drive it on his Cup debut, but crashed early in Friday's opening practice session.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                     Time     Gap
 1.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet  51.124s
 2.  Denny Hamlin        Gibbs Toyota                 51.196s  + 0.072s
 3.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet          51.245s  + 0.121s
 4.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet           51.300s  + 0.176s
 5.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                   51.302s  + 0.178s
 6.  Kurt Busch          Phoenix Chevrolet            51.329s  + 0.205s
 7.  Matt Kenseth        Roush Fenway Ford            51.379s  + 0.255s
 8.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet           51.390s  + 0.266s
 9.  Ryan Newman         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       51.400s  + 0.276s
10.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet           51.409s  + 0.285s
11.  Regan Smith         Furniture Row Chevrolet      51.418s  + 0.294s
12.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford            51.439s  + 0.315s
13.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford                   51.486s  + 0.362s
14.  Joey Logano         Gibbs Toyota                 51.489s  + 0.365s
15.  Martin Truex Jr     Waltrip Toyota               51.541s  + 0.417s
16.  Jamie McMurray      Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet  51.558s  + 0.434s
17.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford            51.596s  + 0.472s
18.  Mark Martin         Waltrip Toyota               51.600s  + 0.476s
19.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota               51.631s  + 0.507s
20.  Kyle Busch          Gibbs Toyota                 51.642s  + 0.518s
21.  Kevin Harvick       Childress Chevrolet          51.661s  + 0.537s
22.  Landon Cassill      BK Toyota                    51.676s  + 0.552s
23.  Jeff Burton         Childress Chevrolet          51.748s  + 0.624s
24.  David Reutimann     Baldwin Chevrolet            51.852s  + 0.728s
25.  Sam Hornish Jr      Penske Dodge                 51.866s  + 0.742s
26.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford               51.900s  + 0.776s
27.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet           51.933s  + 0.809s
28.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       51.964s  + 0.840s
29.  Casey Mears         Germain Ford                 52.064s  + 0.940s
30.  Mike Bliss          Humphrey Smith Toyota        52.138s  + 1.014s
31.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Dodge                 52.213s  + 1.089s
32.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford               52.314s  + 1.190s
33.  Scott Riggs         R3 Chevrolet                 52.351s  + 1.227s
34.  Josh Wise           Front Row Ford               52.352s  + 1.228s
35.  JJ Yeley            Max Q Chevrolet              52.384s  + 1.260s
36.  David Stremme       Inception Toyota             52.436s  + 1.312s
37.  Travis Kvapil       BK Toyota                    52.556s  + 1.432s
38.  Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota                 52.692s  + 1.568s
39.  Bobby Labonte       JTG Daugherty Toyota         52.737s  + 1.613s
40.  Reed Sorenson       Humphrey Smith Ford          52.761s  + 1.637s
41.  Jason White         FAS Lane Ford                53.611s  + 2.487s
42.  Tony Raines         Baldwin Chevrolet
43.  Mike Skinner        Parsons Ford                 52.781s  + 1.657s

Did not qualify:

     Stephen Leicht      Circle Sport Chevrolet       52.790s  + 1.666s

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