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Coca-Cola 600 Will Start With All-Petty Front Row

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 24 2012

Aric Almirola of Richard Petty Motorsports won the pole in Charlotte on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

CONCORD, N.C. – Aric Almirola ripped off a stunning qualifying lap to win the pole Thursday for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The pole, which came after he logged a lap at 192.940 mph, was the first of the Richard Petty Motorsports driver’s Sprint Cup career. It came in Almirola’s first appearance at CMS in the Cup series.

Also on the front row was a second Petty driver, Marcos Ambrose. Ambrose fast lap was at 191.598 mph and it came on the final run of the session.

“Nobody’s crowd works harder than ours,” team-owner Richard Petty said. “They finally got a little recognition. It shows that what these guys have been doing is right. Even though its just qualifying, it’s a big deal for us.”

The pole was the first for the famed No. 43 Petty car at Charlotte for the 600 since 1966 when Marvin Panch got one. Almirola gave owner Petty his first pole since Elliott Sadler got one at Texas in 2010.

“It’s been a huge honor from Day 1” to drive for Petty, Almirola said. “I’m not just driving for Richard Petty, I’m driving the No. 43 car. It’s a huge honor to put the 43 on the pole.”

“What a great day for Richard Petty and Richard Petty Motorsports,” Ambrose said. “We’re a two-car independent team here tryng to take it to the big super teams. It’s just a great night for us.

“My DeWalt Ford was really hooked up, just not quite enough to get the pole but we’ll take a front row. If you’re going to get beaten by anyone, I guess you want it to be by your teammate.”

Third fastest was Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports. He had a fast lap at 191.375 mph

Johnson is coming off back-to-back victories as he won at Darlington two weeks ago and then last Saturday night in the Sprint All-Star Race.

He said he wished he could have continued his hot streak by winning the pole for the 600, but managed a smile for Petty and Almirola.

“Happy for those guys, I really really am,” Johnson said of the RPM drivers. “Very happy for Aric. Great guy and a great talent.”

Fourth fastest was Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing while Clint Bowyer of Richard Childress Racing was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Regan Smith.

Not able to put down a qualifying lap was Kurt Busch. Busch lost the handle on his Phoenix Racing Chevrolet on his warmup lap and hit the wall.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 24 2012
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