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HAMPTON, Ga. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wanted to run near the top of the track.

His car owner told him to stay on the bottom.

Good thing the rookie listened.

Stenhouse won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of his career Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, turning a lap of 189.688 mph on the 1.54-mile tri-oval.

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His previous best qualifying effort of a difficult first full Cup season was a third in Kansas.

“When we unloaded the car, we weren’t very good,” Stenhouse said. “We kept making changes, making big changes, and got it where we needed to be.”

It also helped he heeded the advice of car owner Jack Roush.

Carl Edwards, a teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, had posted the fastest time of the night running a high line before Stenhouse pulled onto the track.

“Having a late draw, I thought whoever was on the pole at the time, I would run the same line,” Stenhouse said. “Well, Jack didn’t want to hear that. He wanted to hear that I was going to run on the bottom. He said it makes him less nervous.”


Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw qualified in 18th for Sunday’s race and Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was 24th.