WATKINS GLEN, New York (AP) — AJ Allmendinger won the NASCAR pole position at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, his second on a road course this year and the fourth of his career.

Allmendinger sped 127.839 mph (205.73 kph) to beat Martin Truex Jr. for the top spot. After being 28th in final practice on Friday, that was a huge relief for the defending race winner.

"It means we lead the field to turn one, at least," Allmendinger said. "I was frustrated yesterday. I was overdriving, trying to get more than was there. I didn't do a good job."

He did when it counted, besting Truex by three-tenths of a second.

A year ago, Allmendinger won a fender-bashing duel with Marcos Ambrose at the end to win his first NASCAR race, but his pole win at Sonoma in June was for naught when a fuel pickup issue relegated him to a 37th-place finish.

Five-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart qualified third. He was competing less than 24 hours after the family of a driver struck and killed by Stewart's car on an upstate New York dirt track a year ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NASCAR star.

Kevin Harvick was fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sonoma winner Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon. Brad Keselowski and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top 12.

Busch, who is just outside the top 30 in points, is starting in a good spot with five races left in NASCAR's regular season. Busch, who has four wins, needs to be in the top 30 in points to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup title. He trails 30th-place David Gilliland by 13 points, and Gilliland qualified 37th.