Richard Childress Racing dominates top 6 spots in Sprint Cup qualifying at ‘Dega; Brian Scott earns first career pole

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Drivers, crew chiefs and team owners expected wrecks and surprises during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at Talladega.

While the expected wrecks didn’t materialize, the eventual qualifying grid was definitely a surprise – if not a shock.

Part-time Cup driver Brian Scott will start Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 on the pole, with Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard next to him on the outside of the front row.

It was Scott’s first career Sprint Cup pole (in five Cup career starts) and marks the ninth different No. 1 qualifier in the first 10 races of the 2014 season.

RCR dominated the qualifying session, securing four of the top six spots, with Austin Dillon starting fifth and Ryan Newman sixth. In addition, two RCR-affiliated teams (they purchase motors and chassis from RCR) rounded out the top 6 with AJ Allmendinger qualifying third and Casey Mears fourth.

“It was a team effort,” Scott said. “We had a plan from the beginning to work as a team. With Newman leading it, he was the point man. … It’s awesome for everybody at Richard Childress Racing. We were able to get the right draft and the right suck there at the last second to get the pole. I couldn’t be more happy for everybody.”

But RCR wasn’t the only team that surprised. So, too, did Stewart Haas Racing, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 12 qualifiers, led by – surprise – Danica Patrick, who start Sunday’s race seventh.

As for Patrick’s SHR teammates, Kevin Harvick will be alongside her in the fourth row, Kurt Busch will start ninth and team co-owner Tony Stewart will start 12th.

Among other notable events in qualifying:

* In the first round, Kyle Busch (200.574 mph) and Joey Logano (200.171) became the first two drivers to run qualifying laps of more than 200 mph at Talladega since 1987, one year before restrictor plates were mandated for races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

* In all, 11 of the top 12 qualifiers were powered by Chevrolet. Ford managed just one qualifier in the top 12: Carl Edwards, who will start 10th. As for Toyota, Brian Vickers was the top qualifier – but that’s not saying much, given Vickers will start on the inside of Row 10 in 19th position.

* In an oddity, no drivers took to the track for the first three-plus minutes of the 12-car final round. Finally, with two minutes left, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon led the pack onto the track.

* For the first time this season, Richmond winner Joey Logano failed to make the 12-driver final round during qualifying.

* Making the final start of his lengthy Cup career, two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte will start 38th.

* Defending race winner David Ragan will start 39th.

* Four drivers failed to qualify: Eric McClure, J.J. Yeley, Dave Blaney and Joe Nemecheck.

Here’s how the field will line up for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499:

Here’s how the field will line up for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499:

Row 1 Brian Scott (198.200 mph), Paul Menard (197.888)

Row 2 AJ Allmendinger (197.704), Casey Mears (197.370)

Row 3 Austin Dillon (197.362), Ryan Newman (197.297)

Row 4 Danica Patrick 194.995), Kevin Harvick (194.393)

Row 5 Kurt Busch (193.619), Carl Edwards (193.615)

Row 6 Jeff Gordon (193.486), Tony Stewart (188.958)

Row 7 Brad Keselowski (194.963), Michael McDowell (194.959)

Row 8 Aric Almirola (194.911), Joey Logano (194.880)

Row 9 Michael Annett (194.098), Brian Vickers (194.035)

Row 10 Kyle Busch (193.541), Jimmie Johnson (193.478)

Row 11 Matt Kenseth (193.458), Reed Sorensen (190.890)

Row 12 Trevor Bayne (190.575), Ryan Truex (197.913)

Row 13 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (197.908), Marcos Ambrose (197.835)

Row 14 Clint Bowyer (197.806), Michael Waltrip (197.806)

Row 15 Kyle Larson (197.770), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (197.765)

Row 16 Cole Whitt (197.721), Jamie McMurray (197.443)

Row 17 Alex Bowman (197.403), Denny Hamlin (197.378)

Row 18 Greg Biffle (197.244), Josh Wise (197.029)

Row 19 Terry Labonte (196.746), Justin Allgaier (196.230)

Row 20 David Ragan (195.732), David Gilliland (194.880)

Row 21 Landon Cassill (194.389), Kasey Kahne (engine change)

Row 22 Martin Truex Jr. (engine change)

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Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

Michelin
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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”