Juan Montoya Takes Pole Position for Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400
Juan Montoya posted the only sub-21-second lap during Friday's time trials for Saturday night's Crown Royal Presents 400 to claim the seventh pole of his Sprint Cup career.
Montoya toured three-quarter-mile Richmond International Raceway in 20.989 seconds (128.639 mph) to earn his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season and edge Regan Smith (128.382) for the top spot in Saturday's race, the ninth event on the Cup schedule.
The front-row starting spot was Smith's best ever, and it lowered his series-best qualifying average to 7.1.
Clint Bowyer qualified third at 128.272 mph, followed by Kasey Kahne (128.150) and Mark Martin (128.053). Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, points leader Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Paul Menard will start from positions 6-10, respectively.
Montoya improved his speed during the second of two Friday practice sessions and backed it up with his qualifying effort.
"It was good, and I'm really happy," said Montoya, who has won on the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen but is still seeking his first Cup victory on an oval track. "We were faster in second practice, and we matched it in qualifying, and I'm pretty excited about it, to be honest."
Under NASCAR's new qualifying format, drivers locked into the field go out in positions 1-35 in inverse order of practice speeds. Smith was the 30th driver to make an attempt. Montoya went out 34th.
"That's the tough part about this new procedure -- you always know that there are faster cars coming, unless you are one of the last cars to go," Smith said. "It doesn't take away from the great car we have got ... a great job by these guys on the Furniture Row Chevrolet. Qualifying has been great. We really wanted to get a pole.
"I wanted to get that out of the way and then we can start getting those top-10s and top-fives and all the other stuff."
Defending race winner Kyle Busch qualified 20th, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin 11th and five-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson 30th. Bowyer, Johnson, Hamlin and Busch have combined to win the past eight races at Richmond.
Brian Keselowski, returning to the track after gall bladder surgery, failed to qualify for the 43-car field.