Stewart gets pole at Pocono

Associated Press / August 1, 2009

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LONG POND, Pa. - Tony Stewart won at Pocono Raceway this season from the rear of the field. He gets to try it this time from the pole.

Rain washed out Sprint Cup qualifying yesterday for tomorrow’s Pennsylvania 500, putting Stewart on the pole and giving the points leader a shot at sweeping the races on the triangle track from worst and first.

“You don’t have to be on the pole to win here,’’ Stewart said. “It’s obviously a lot easier if you can start up front and don’t have to pass 42 cars to get there. It’s not a deal-breaker if you have to start 43d. We proved that last time.’’

Qualifying for June’s race at Pocono also was rained out and Stewart was awarded the pole. He wrecked the next day in practice, forcing him to the back of the field. He responded with his first Cup points race victory as owner/driver.

Stewart holds a 192-point lead in the points standings over last week’s winner Jimmie Johnson.

“I don’t know how I could ask for any more,’’ Stewart said. “I’d love to have five wins like Mark [Martin] has, but other than that, I’m extremely satisfied with what we’ve done.’’

Stewart’s win at Pocono made him the first owner/driver to win a race since Ricky Rudd at Martinsville in 1998.

Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Carl Edwards round out the top five. Denny Hamlin, Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Martin, and Juan Pablo Montoya complete the top 10.

Only 43 teams are at the track, so every car qualifies for tomorrow’s race.

“I feel like we had a really good car for qualifying,’’ Johnson said. “Second isn’t bad at all, but I feel like we had a shot at the pole today.’’

The steady rain late in the afternoon wiped out the second practice session.

“Does it rain here all the time like this?’’ Edwards said.

Edwards won here last August after waiting out a 41-minute red flag because of rain. He hasn’t won a Cup race this season after taking the checkered flag nine times last year.