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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Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”