September 18, 2009

Montoya wins pole to start NASCAR playoffs

Juan Pablo Montoya, one of 12 drivers remaining with a chance to win the Sprint Cup championship, captured the pole Friday for the Sylvania 300.

Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be the first of the 10 events that decide the series champion.

Each driver that has earned a spot in the chase for the championship will begin the 10-race series with 5,000 points, plus 10 points for each race he has won thus far in 2009.

That puts Mark Martin on top at the outset with 5,040 points. The 12 chase drivers will compete with all the other Sprint Cup series drivers in a 43-car field for each race.

The same points system used during the regular NASCAR races will be in place for the chase races, with 185 points going to the winner of each one.

Montoya, who will begin the chase in 11th place, needed 28.545 seconds to cover one lap around the 1.058-mile oval. He won his second career pole.

Tony Stewart, tied for second as the chase begins, had the second-fastest lap, followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. All the drivers qualifying among the Top 5 are part of the chase.

Martin, seeking his first NASCAR championship, will start 14th. Brian Vickers had the worst qualifying time among the 12 chase drivers and will start 26th.