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Larson Wins First Pole

| , RacinToday.com Friday, August 1 2014

Kyle Larson has his groove back. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

Rookie Kyle Larson definitely is back in his groove.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who started the season in impressive finish but sank into a mid-season funk in terms of finishes, won the pole Friday for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

Larson, who turned 22 on Thursday, set a track record of 183.438 mph in qualifying for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400.

“I felt I hit all three corners about as good as I could and barely edged out Joey (Logano) – which feels great because he’s been fast in qualifying,” said Larson, coming off consecutive top-10 finishes at New Hampshire (third) and Indianapolis (seventh).

“I had butterflies in that last round. I knew we had a shot at the pole after the second round, but I was nervous.”

Larson’s effort wasn’t lost on Logano, who turned the fastest lap in each of the first two rounds of qualifying and finished just eight thousandths of a second slower in the deciding session.

“Kyle definitely laid down a good one because I thought my lap was damn near perfect and I got beat,” said Logano, who posted a top-10 qualifying effort for the 17th time in 21 races this season.

“Anytime you win the first two sessions, you feel pretty good about what you’re gonna have in the third and we ran the third session really hard. I felt like we nailed the setup, nailed the balance. I was pretty confident – really, really confident that that was going to be the pole.”

Although still seeking his first win, Larson’s recent performances have him in position to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He’s 12th in Sprint Cup points, three points ahead of Austin Dillon, his primary competition in the Rookie of the Year battle. Dillon, who won the season’s first pole at Daytona, qualified 11th on Friday.

Larson has nine top-10 finishes this season.

“I definitely think it’s realistic to think we could win (one of the upcoming races),” he said. “Maybe before the Chase starts. We’re getting better and better. Pocono’s a good track for me. Michigan is a good track for me. Then we go to Atlanta, where I’ve never raced a Cup car, but it’s a rough, worn-out surface that I feel will be another good track for me

“We hit a small string of tracks that I didn’t like. We had some bad luck. Now it seems we’re back on track and running in the top 10.”

The 2013 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, Larson finished fifth in the June 8 Pocono 400, the first Cup race in which he led laps this season. He’s led laps in three of the ensuing six races.

| , RacinToday.com Friday, August 1 2014
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