Stenhouse Jr. captures first Sprint Cup pole at Atlanta

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Updated: 9/01/2013 1:51 pm

Hampton, GA (Sports Network) - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his first career pole in the Sprint Cup Series after topping his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, in Friday's qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stenhouse, a rookie in NASCAR's top series this year, turned a lap at 189.688 mph for his maiden pole in his 30th start. Stenhouse was the 39th driver in the 43-car qualifying field. Edwards went out 31st.

Prior to Atlanta, Stenhouse's best qualifying finish was third, which came in April at Kansas. Both racetracks are mile and a halfs.

"I was so confused whether I should run the bottom or the top (of the track), and I stuck with our plan to run the bottom that (team owner) Jack (Roush) actually gave me," Stenhouse said.

With the pole win, Stenhouse will be eligible to compete in the 2014 preseason race at Daytona. He is currently 26th in the point standings and has yet to score a top-10 finish this year. Stenhouse won last year's Nationwide Series race at Atlanta.

"It's cool to get a pole," he said. "We'll be in the Shootout (at Daytona) next year. We want to get better finishes. That's what we're here for."

Edwards posted a lap at 189.021 mph to give Roush Fenway the front starting row for Sunday's 500-mile race.

"I think I actually told (Stenhouse) to run the bottom, because I thought the top was better," Edwards said. "Jack told Ricky what to do, and he did it. He got the pole. So now if Jack comes up to me and tells me to do something, I've got to do it, otherwise I'll never hear the end of it."

Juan Pablo Montoya qualified third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon.

Matt Kenseth, who won last weekend's race at Bristol, Martin Truex, Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson, the points leader, completed the top-10.

Truex and Hamlin are both driving with injuries in this race. Truex has a cast on his right wrist after fracturing it during a multi-car accident late in the Bristol event. Hamlin injured his right hand in that same crash. He is wearing a splint on his thumb.

Stenhouse's girlfriend and fellow rookie competitor, Danica Patrick, will start 21st, two spots ahead of defending series champion Brad Keselowski, who is in danger of missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Keselowski enters this race 11th in points.

All 43 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field for Sunday's race at Atlanta, which is scheduled to start shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET.

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