- Associated Press - Saturday, June 9, 2012

LONG POND, PA. (AP) - Thanks to a repave that led to blistering speeds, Pocono Raceway’s track record was topped 36 times.

Joey Logano had the fastest speed of them all.

Logano turned a lap of 179.598 mph on Saturday to set the track record during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono. Logano won his first pole of the season and fourth in 125 career Sprint Cup starts.

He drove the No. 20 Toyota around the 2 1/2-mile track in 50.112 seconds.

“It’s cool to get a pole here,” Logano said. “A new track record, too.”

Logano went out 18th out of 44 cars and waited for about 45 minutes until the final qualifying lap was turned and he could celebrate. Kasey Kahne held the record of 172.533 mph set on June 11, 2004. Consider this: Kahne starts 10th Sunday and went 177.823 mph.

Carl Edwards joins Logano on the front row for Sunday’s 400-mile race. Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

Joe Gibbs Racing put Logano, Busch and Hamlin in the top five.

Drivers have raved about a repave that points leader Greg Biffle said was “glass smooth at 200 mph.”

Pocono had absorbed decades of criticism from drivers who said the race was too long, outdated, and unsafe. Pocono cut the race to 400 miles for the two Cup races this season and recent safety upgrades have drivers suddenly raving about the track.

It’s a new era at Pocono.

Logano and the rest of the field posted the speeds to prove it.

The pole continues a recent uptick of solid results for Logano. Only 22, Logano is entering a make-or-break season at JGR in the final year of a four-year deal. He’s insisted in the past his contract status has not added pressure to him. Considered a phenom when he broke into NASCAR, Logano’s lone Cup win came in 2009.

He’s fared much better on the second-tier Nationwide Series. Logano has 13 career Nationwide wins, four this season, including last week at Dover International Speedway.

“Every time we’ve been in position to win a race, we’ve won that race,” Logano said.

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