LONG POND, Pa. -- Kurt Busch's reward for slapping the wall at practice was a backup No. 22 Dodge that was better than his regular ride.
For that, Busch had plenty of people to thank, starting with his team at Penske Racing.
"Just an honest thank-you to my guys," Busch said.
Newton: Good ol' Pocono
Some tracks have more tradition. Some tracks have tight finishes seemingly every other race. Some tracks seat 200,000-plus. None of those tracks offers what Pocono Raceway does, writes David Newton. Story
It's been quite a reversal for Busch a month after he launched into a foul-mouthed tirade against his race team at Richmond. He made it two straight poles Saturday, turning a fast lap of 171.579 mph at Pocono Raceway.
Busch damaged his No. 22 Dodge in Friday's practice and was forced to a backup car. He also spun at practice last week -- a sort of bad luck-good luck habit. He wound up first last week at Kansas Speedway, then topped Jeff Gordon in one of the final qualifying runs at Pocono.
The two-time winner at the 2½-mile track, Busch became the first pole winner under the new Sprint Cup qualifying rules.
Qualifying was determined based on practice speeds -- from slowest to fastest -- with those times now coming from the first practice session. The qualifying order also will no longer be separated between teams that are locked into the race and teams that must qualify on speed.
Busch was impressed that Penske could produce a pole-winning backup car.
"That's something you really wouldn't hear about back in the day," he said. "It would be, 'All right, you'll have to struggle during the weekend.' "
Busch, who is sixth in points, finished ninth last week at Kansas for his second straight top-10 finish. After some early struggles caused concern and ill feelings at Penske, the drivers are getting their programs in line. Busch's teammate, Brad Keselowski, won the pole two races ago at Charlotte and took the checkered flag last week at Kansas.
Richmond was certainly the boiling point for Busch -- and looks like the turning point.[+] EnlargeChris Trotman/Getty ImagesKurt Busch celebrates winning the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway. It was Busch's second straight pole.
He blamed Penske Racing's shortcomings on technical director Tom German over a radio frequency available to the public. German has since left the team.
"I took the apple tree and shook it as hard as I could at Richmond," Busch said. "We saw which apples fell and which ones were still there. It was honestly, 'Hey, do we want to make the Chase?' We've got to make some changes. Heading into the direction we were, we were just scraping those top 10s. That's not going to get it done when you want to win the championship."
Busch often doesn't react well when his team fails to make the needed adjustments to get his car caught up with the leaders. He totally lost it at Richmond when he ran into Ryan Newman's spinning race car.
The 2004 champion was in a great mood Saturday -- one of the perks that comes with starting first. Paul Menard joined him on the front row. Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Regan Smith rounded out the top five.
The new qualifying rules meant most of NASCAR's heavy hitters hit the track at the end. Hamlin held the pole, then Gordon, before Busch came along and snagged it for good. Points leader Carl Edwards went last and qualified sixth.
"That is a pole-winning car right there," Edwards said. "It's nice to be disappointed about a sixth-place qualifying position. It should be a really good run for us."
Mike Skinner was the lone driver who failed to qualify.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
MORE RACING HEADLINES
- Logano claims Vegas pole with track record
- Ku. Busch to try Indy 500-Coca Cola 600 double
- Harvick cruises to 2nd straight Phoenix win
- Busch collects rain-shortened N'wide victory
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM