Carl Edwards wins Sprint Cup pole at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. >> Carl Edwards, who won the pole at Watkins Glen International, has become somewhat of a master at qualifying on NASCAR's two Sprint Cup road courses.
Edwards turned a fast lap of 126.562 mph on Saturday to edge Kyle Larson for the top spot for Sunday's Cheez-It 355. It was the fourth pole of the season for Edwards in his No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and gave him a road course season sweep. He also won the pole in June at NASCAR's other road course in Sonoma.
Not bad for a driver who backed into a fence on the first lap he took at Watkins Glen and ignited a brush fire at Virginia International Raceway while practicing there.
"I'm really proud of doing well just because it really has been a long learning process," Edwards said. "Now we've just got to get a win here."
He's in the right spot. The last five winners at Watkins Glen came from the top six in qualifying.
Five-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart, who's retiring after the season, qualified third in the final road race of his career, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray, Michael McDowell and Brad Keselowski completed the top 12.
Martin Truex Jr., who had topped the speed charts in Friday's first practice and was second to Allmendinger in final practice, wound up 14th after problems with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Jeff Gordon, subbing again for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., qualified 21st.
Truex and Stenhouse took turns impeding one another's progress on the track during the first round of qualifying, and that ended up taking two of the fastest cars in practice out of the running for the pole.
Stenhouse made the initial mistake and Truex simply exacted revenge.
"I don't know what the right thing is to do," Truex said. "When you get to this level, you should be able to know what's going on around you. It's a little frustrating. He was just leaving the pits. It was not like he was on his lap. He should have seen me and just checked up."
Edwards said that can be a problem on both road courses.
"We work hard to try not to mess up other people," Edwards said. "Here it's really easy to mess somebody up. It's even easier to act like you didn't mean to."
Also failing to make the top 12 were Jimmie Johnson (13th), Kevin Harvick (15th), rookie Chase Elliott (16th) and Kurt Busch (17th).
Rookie Chris Buescher, the surprise winner on Monday at Pocono, will start 25th as he seeks to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He needs to be in the top 30 in points and sits 31st, six points behind David Ragan, who will start alongside Buescher in the 13th row.
Teams used different strategies, with Truex among several drivers waiting for the track to gain grip on the newly paved Watkins Glen surface after an overnight rain. The first round was briefly red-flagged for debris after Paul Menard went off course in the inner loop, or bus stop, at the top of the esses with just over 15 minutes remaining in the first session.
Larson was fastest in the final round until Edwards knocked him down a rung. He couldn't gain any speed on one final try around the 2.45-mile course.
"I messed up about every corner," Larson said. "I finally got some grip late in practice. The new repave is pretty slick for me. I tried the last time. Probably should have bailed."
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