FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Tony Stewart will start his 400th Sprint Cup race from the pole.
Stewart won qualifying in NASCAR’s top series for the first time in five years Friday, turning a lap of 191.327 mph at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s been 155 races since Stewart last won the pole, at Martinsville in October 2005.
“I’m surprised,” Stewart said. “I’m really not much of a qualifier.”
It’s the third time Stewart has won the pole in Texas. He was the top qualifier twice in the IndyCar Series in the 1990s.
Former IRL star Sam Hornish Jr., still winless in his third full Sprint Cup season, almost knocked Stewart off the pole. He settled for second with a lap of 191.232.
Greg Biffle, who was denied a seventh straight top-10 finish to start the season last week in Phoenix, qualified third for Sunday’s race. Four-time defending Sprint Cup champion and current points leader Jimmie Johnson was fourth.
The pole drought didn’t keep Stewart from winning races. Thirteen of his 37 victories have come since his last pole, the same year he won his second Sprint Cup series championship.
Stewart’s strong qualifying run came a week after Ryan Newman won for the first time with Stewart-Haas Racing and ended his 77-race drought.
“To get him that first win for the organization this early in the year, that totally made it for the organization,” Stewart said. “There’s an attitude in the shop that hasn’t been there, period.”
Hornish won three times at Texas in the IRL but hasn’t been able to translate that success to the Sprint Cup series. He might be turning a corner, though, with a career-best qualifying run for the second week in a row. He started third last week.
“I knew it was going to be a good lap, but I didn’t think it was going to be the second-fastest,” Hornish Jr. said. “We did make a pretty good jump from where we were in practice.”