Michael McDowell at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (David Moulthrop Photo)

467th Time The Charm: McDowell Storms To First Cup Pole

Making his 467th start on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Michael McDowell will start on pole for the first time in his career.

McDowell wheeled his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford to a fastest speed of 178.844 mph, outpacing Team Penske’s Joey Logano.

The two locked down the front row for last week’s Daytona 500, with Logano snagging the top spot.

McDowell broke J.D. McDuffie’s record (403 starts) for most career starts before winning a Cup Series pole.

“The first eight years of my career were rough, so I’m enjoying it now, having fast race cars and a great team behind me and being able to have results like this – top fives, top 10s, winning Indy last year – so it’s been fun,” McDowell said. “The last few years have been great. It’s been very rewarding, but at the same time it’s motivating too because I’m not getting any younger and I don’t want to say I’m running out of time because I still have a lot of time, but 10 years where I don’t want to say wasted because they obviously served their purpose, but I have a lot of catching up to do and now is the time to start catching up on all those areas where I couldn’t early on in my career.

“It’s just motivating to make the most of the opportunity we have in front of us because right now, today, we have fast cars and that’s not a guarantee six months from now and that’s not a guarantee 12 months from now. I know that because I lived the other side for a long time, so it’s making the most of the opportunity that we have right in front of us right now because right now we’re in the game and have something for them.”

Behind the two Ford’s was Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch and McDowell’s teammate Todd Gilliland. It was Gilliand’s best qualifying position in his career.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson slotted in fifth.  A quartet of Ford’s followed with Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe making up sixth through ninth.

Austin Dillon gave RCR a second top-10 starting position in 10th. 

Last week’s Daytona 500 winner and the most recent winner at Atlanta, William Byron, will start 11th.

The first Toyota driver in qualifying was Martin Truex Jr., who starts 12th.