Larson wins 1st career pole at Pocono Raceway
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) Kyle Larson had one more celebration left during his birthday week, setting a track record of 183.438 mph to win his first career Sprint Cup pole Friday at Pocono Raceway.
He broke the mark of 181.415 that Denny Hamlin set in June.
Larson, one of the top rookies in NASCAR, turned 22 on Thursday and wants to keep the party going with his first win Sunday. Larson could use a victory to secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, though he would make the 16-car field as it stands on points.
''I really think a win is coming soon, maybe before the Chase starts,'' Larson said.
Joey Logano joined Larson on the front row. Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon completed the top five. Gordon followed his fifth Brickyard 400 win with another strong qualifying run.
Logano topped the first two rounds of qualifying and held the top spot until Larson bumped him in the third.
''I knew we had a shot at the pole after the second round,'' Larson said. ''I was nervous and I hit all three corners about as good as I could, so I was really excited about that.''
Keselowski is pulling double duty this weekend and will also drive in the Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway. Larson also has a doubleheader with a ride in Saturday's Truck Series race at Pocono.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick completed the top 10.
Larson started first this year at Richmond after rain wiped out qualifying and he took the top spot because of his practice time. But it did not count as an official pole.
Larson took this one in No. 42 Chevrolet moments before the skies opened at Pocono, and the threat of rain looms large for Sunday's race.
''We've been really fast the last few months, just maybe finding better luck now,'' Larson said.
He qualified for next year's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway and became NASCAR's first Drive for Diversity graduate to win a Cup pole. Larson's mother is Japanese and his father is of Native American descent.
Larson shared a birthday party Thursday with his manager's 6-year-old daughter. Larson joked the girl was mad at him because he got his girlfriend pregnant, ''and she thought she was my girlfriend.''
Larson made it up to the girl with a dozen roses and candy.
Larson's speed was the 15th track qualifying record set in 2014. Logano posted his 17th top-10 start and his Team Penske teammate Keselowski has 16 top-10 starts in 21 races this season.
''We push them to be better the first round,'' Logano said. ''They push us to be better as we go into the third round. I'm getting better. We're able to see what we do differently, which helps us because one is good in one area and one is good in the other, so we can see both of that.''