FORT WORTH, Texas (Ticker) - While much of the attention in Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup Dickies 500 is focused on the two leaders of "The Chase" the driver bringing up the rear of the 12-driver lineup stole the pole on Friday.
Martin Truex Jr. became the fourth first-time pole winner in Nextel Cup this season when he was the fastest in Friday's qualifications with a lap at 193.105 miles per hour. It was his first pole in 79 career Cup starts but his 14th top 10 in 2007. He previously started second at Loudon, Martinsville and Chicago.
It was also his first start better than ninth at TMS and his second top-10 start in five races at the 1-1/2-mile oval.
"It's a huge deal," said Truex, who is 12th in the standings, 513 points behind the leader. "For as hard as we've been trying for as long as we've been trying it definitely makes it a lot sweeter to get that first pole. It feels great.
"I drove way down to Turn 3, was a little tight and didn't get quite to the bottom. I didn't think it would be the lap I thought it would be. It's great that it worked out for us."
Truex drove the same Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he crashed at Atlanta Motor Speedway last Sunday while contending for the victory. On a late-race restart, Denny Hamlin's Chevrolet sputtered and stalled and tried to get out of the way but Truex ran into the back of him, damaging the dominant car.
"I have to thank the crew for rebuilding this car from last week," Truex said. "It's my favorite car and it's great they were able to do that. They worked night and day to get the car repaired. I was cooking out for the guys at the motor home lot after the Atlanta race and they were an hour-and-a-half late. They got the car back late Sunday night and ready to replace the front clip on Monday morning.
"Last week was a heart breaker but it shows how hard we worked and how much we fought back to get the car ready."
Hamlin's team and NASCAR officials later discovered there was water in Hamlin's fuel, which caused the engine to sputter and triggering the wreck.
"What surprised me was where we were," Truex said. "You weren't allowed to flush your toilet because of the drought in Atlanta and he had water in his gas tank. But what are you going to do? We've had everything surprising happened to us this year that could happen to us."
Jeff Gordon, who leads the Nextel Cup standings by nine points over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, was second at 192.424 mph in a Chevrolet. It's his 12th front row start in 2007.
"We were strong in practice, we knew we had a shot at it," Gordon said. "It just came down to the adjustments going out late like that. The track had tremendous grip we just needed the car to be a little freer. Starting on the outside front row is great. I'm very happy."
Gordon believes a mistake in April cost him a victory in the first visit to TMS this season.
"I'm my harshest critic and what I beat myself up the most about that is I had a good lead, didn't need to be pushing that hard at that part of the race," Gordon said. "That doesn't guarantee a victory but I was in great shape to win that race."
Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia was third at 192.417 mph in a Dodge as the fastest rookie.
"It's a little surprising because in practice we were sixth fastest and the car wasn't really that great," Montoya said. "I went out and the grip was good, the balance was a little better and it was a little faster. It's the fourth time that it was good but not good enough (for the pole) but we're getting there."
Montoya has already won a race on a road course this year when he won at Infineon Raceway in June. He wants to get a win on the oval before the season is out.
"Starting up front always helps because you are running in clean air," Montoya said. "To have this performance in qualifying is encouraging; we can make some changes and make it even better."
Kevin Harvick was fourth in a Chevrolet at 192.239 mph with rookie A.J. Allmendinger's Toyota rounding out the top five at 192.239 mph.
Defending Cup champion Johnson, who is hoping to pass Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon for the title in the final three races, was eighth at 192.068 mph.
Clint Bowyer, who is perhaps the only driver with a legitimate shot at the title, 111 points out in third place, was 29th at 190.181 mph in a Chevrolet.
Defending race winner Tony Stewart was 15th in a Chevrolet at 191.327 mph.