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NASCAR
Quaker State 400
When: 7:30 p.m. today
TV: TNT
Associated Press
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole position for tonight’s Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway with a track-record speed of 183.636 mph.

Junior fastest at Kentucky

– The questions during NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying Friday were how many drivers would raise Kentucky Speedway’s record and by how much.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. provided the answer of the eight that broke it, clocking 183.636 mph to wrest the mark from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and the pole for tonight’s race.

Earnhardt’s speed was nearly 2 mph faster than Johnson’s 181.818 mph last June, which he needed to keep Johnson from keeping the record.

Minutes before, Johnson had a lap at 183.144 mph to hold off Ryan Newman (182.254). Earnhardt set the standard in the No. 88 Chevy soon after and survived several furious attempts to unseat him before coming away with his 12th career pole and first at Kentucky.

Carl Edwards (183.306 mph) eventually grabbed the outside front in the No. 99 Ford. Johnson settled for third with Kyle Busch (182.593) fourth in a Toyota.

Marcos Ambrose (182.587) qualified fifth in a Ford and will start alongside Denny Hamlin, whose No. 11 Toyota ran 182.340 mph. The final two over 182 mph were Newman and defending race winner and Cup champion Brad Keselowski (182.192).

“I thought we had a good car in practice,” Earnhardt said, “and we got some cloud cover. That gave us an opportunity to run a good lap.”

Drivers felt as if a track record was possible with NASCAR’s new Gen 6 car, even on Kentucky’s bumpy surface. Anticipation grew even more with cooler-than-expected temperatures and intermittent clouds, and several drivers gave chase to Johnson’s mark early in the session.

Johnson, the series points leader, promptly raised the bar higher with a speed that seemed to put the pole and the record out of reach even with two-thirds of qualifying remaining. Newman gave chase and briefly had the second spot before settling for a solid berth in the field.

Earnhardt, sixth after the final practice, soon grabbed his up-front view and the record as all the elements fell into place for his first pole since September at Richmond.

“The cloud cover at least gave us a bit of speed,” Earnhardt said. “Of course, cooler track temps gives the car more grip and we definitely had the better situation of anyone in practice with that scenario.”

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