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Winning the pole doesn’t mean an automatic trip to victory lane


during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Sarah Crabill

Winning the pole for a Sprint Cup race isn’t all that great, at least in 2016.

After six races, the average finishing spot of pole-sitters is 14.8.

Other than the first spot on the starting grid, the biggest perk of winning a pole is the first pit choice. This usually means the pole-winning team selects the first pit stall, the one at the exit to pit road.

But none of this season’s five pole-sitters - Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon - has translated that prime real estate into a race win.

The last time a race was won from the pole? Matt Kenseth last August at Michigan International Speedway.

That was 20 races ago.

In all, only four pole winners claimed wins last season. That included Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s pole for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, which was awarded on practice time when qualifying was rained out.

Last year’s total was down one from 2014 and down three from 2013 when there were seven. That season saw it happen in three consecutive races. Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville in the spring, followed by Kyle Busch at Texas Motor Speedway and Kenseth at Kansas Speedway.

In 2012, only three pole-sitters won, including consecutive efforts by Johnson at Martinsville and Texas. It also happened in consecutive races in 2011.

Despite the recurrence of the feat at Texas in that brief period, it’s happened at the 1.5-mile track only three times in 30 races with 22 different pole-sitters.

The track, which hosts this weekend’s Duck Commander 500, opened in 1997. A pole winner didn’t claim a race victory until Kasey Kahne accomplished it in 2006.

Here’s a breakdown of how many pole-sitters have won races over the last 10 seasons and 330 races. In this time frame, Johnson leads the series with 14 wins from the pole among his 54 total wins.

2016 - 0 (through six races)

2015 - 4

2014 - 5

2013 - 7

2012 - 3

2011 - 2

2010 - 5

2009 - 7

2008 - 9 (Five by Jimmie Johnson)

2007 - 4

Ten-year total - 46/330 or 14 percent

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