It has been a long drought for Dale Earnhardt Jr., but he took a cool sip of water during Friday's Georgia Power Qualifying Night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, earning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position since April 2008. Earnhardt Jr.'s lap of 192.761 (28.761 seconds) will put him in front of the field for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500.
"The car did everything I asked it to do," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet was pretty good in practice; we just needed to get a little better. And we just need to hit that perfect lap."
Kyle Busch didn't find that perfect lap, but he wasn't too far off, posting a speed of 192.280 mph, 28.833 seconds).
"I felt really good about our lap," Busch said. "We got the most out of it we could get."
Juan Pablo Montoya will start third (192.106 mph, 28. 859 seconds) after turning what he said was a "crazy fast" lap.
"I'm surprised we ran that fast," Montoya said. "It was a good lap; we have been working on it really hard."
But perhaps no team has been working as hard as Earnhardt Jr.'s, which is desperately trying to shake the memory of last year's dismal season. In fact, even after earning his second career pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and even after learning he had turned the fastest qualifying lap for the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, Earnhardt Jr. was subdued.
"It's good to be on the pole, and I'm real proud of it," Earnhardt Jr. said. "But we're hungry ... we're just so hungry to do so much better on Sunday. We're starving for a good finish, and for something like this to happen Sunday for us. That's all we can think about."
Unadilla's David Ragan qualified was 17th, Alpharetta driver Joey Logano will start 29th and Dawsonville's Bill Elliott will start 34th.
Great seats are still available for Saturday's E-Z-GO 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Purchase tickets online at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com or call (877) 9-AMS-TIX.