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Allmendinger takes big step; Veteran has shot at first victory

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A.J. Allmendinger is not a patient man. He stepped into the seat of former Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch in Penske Racing's No. 22 Dodge and is anxious to reward the team's confidence in him.

Allmendinger took a big step toward gaining acceptance on Saturday when he won the pole for today's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. Allmendinger turned a lap of 175.993 and edged Kevin Harvick, who was second at 175.747 in a Chevrolet.

"More than anything, I just love being a part of this race team," Allmendinger said after his second career pole. "I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders to go out there and win races, win poles for these guys, because they're so use to it. I put a lot of that on me.

"To get a pole like this and get in the [2013] Shootout and just keep building the momentum, it's a big deal today. The important day is tomorrow, but today we're the best. That's all that matters."

Allmendinger, 31, spent his first five Sprint Cup seasons with second-tier teams and has not won a race in 159 starts. Busch won 10 races in his six seasons with Penske, so the opportunity is there.

"The great thing is that Mr. [Roger] Penske and everybody in the organization is patient," Allmendinger said. "They're like, 'It takes time.' It's just because these guys deserve it. They're use to running up front. We'll get there. It's a lot of work. We're not quite there yet. But when we do get there, we'll have the chance to win a lot of races."

Allmendinger finished second to Ryan Newman at Martinsville on April 1, and believes the elusive first win is not far away.

"We're getting closer," Allmendinger said. "We just need to get faster throughout a whole race. We're still working together and I think that's what people don't really understand. It's tough to be a brand-new crew chief in the Cup Series along with a driver coming to a race team for the first time.

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Vettel earns pole

SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the first time this season on Saturday at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where security remains tight amid expectations of anti-government protests.

Vettel, whose best finish this year was second place at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, clocked 1 minute, 32.422 seconds in his Red Bull. That was 0.98 seconds faster than championship leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.

Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was third followed by Jenson Button.

Demonstrators have called for today's race to be canceled until the ruling Sunni dynasty enacts reforms. The race was canceled last year because of unrest.

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