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Almirola wins first Sprint Cup pole

  |   May 24, 2012 at 10:16 PM
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CONCORD, N.C., May 24 (UPI) -- Aric Almirola won the first pole of his Sprint Cup series career Thursday, leading the qualifying for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Almirola's Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose qualified second.

This is the first full season in the series for Almirola, and in his 47th career Sprint Cup start he turned in a lap of 192.940 mph. Ambrose was clocked at 191.598 mph.

Jimmie Johnson, who won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte last weekend, will start third. Points leader Greg Biffle and Clint Boyer rounded out the top five.

They were followed by Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Regan Smith.

Defending race champion Kevin Harvick qualified 14th. Danica Patrick, making her third Sprint Cup start, was awarded the 40th starting position on owner points after a poor qualifying lap of 185.179 mph.

The Coca-Cola 600 finishes off what is annually the biggest day of worldwide motor racing. The Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, the highlight event on that circuit, is also scheduled for Sunday, as is the Indianapolis 500.

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