By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Those who were in doubt that the No. 88 Amp Energy team had made improvements this season, have to at least admit that they have qualifying figured out. Earnhardt Jr., who has not been known as a strong qualifier in his career, qualified fourth last week in Vegas, and he topped that Friday by capturing the pole for Sunday at Atlanta.
This is Earnhardt’s first pole since he topped the speed charts at Texas in 2008, some 68-races ago.
Earnhardt will lead the field to the green in the Kobalt Tools 500 after a blistering lap of 192.761 mph… much faster than I personally anticipated anyone to go with the aging track surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch will start second with a lap of 192.280 mph. Juan Pablo Montoya was a late qualifying scare, but he would come home third in the qualifying session. Montoya was the last of the cars to break 192 miles-per-hour.
Earnhardt’s Hendrick teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon will roll off the grid from fourth and fifth.
Jimmie Johnson who has won the last two Sprint Cup Series races of the season was only able to muster the 16th fastest time of the session, but expect him near the front Sunday.
The three cars that will be going home this week are Aric Almirola, Terry Cook, and Casey Mears. Mears still has not made a cup race yet this season.