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Kyle Busch takes pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway

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Kyle Busch earned his second straight pole of the season and 28th of his NASCAR Cup career during Friday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Busch topped the speed charts with a best lap of 179.151 mph, faster than outside polesitter Martin Truex Jr. (178.543 mph). Busch did so without crew chief Adam Stevens, who started a four-race suspension today for last week’s tire mishap at Dover.

“Any week that you’re able to qualify first and get the No. 1 pit selection is hopefully a good omen,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “It’s all about the speed that our guys have bringing to the racetrack. We’ve been really fast. Our cars have been showing good speed the last few weeks, so it’d be nice to show speed through 400 miles on Sunday.”

Truex, who for the second straight week also qualified alongside Busch at Dover, joked about the outcome, telling FS1, “Damn him. What else can you say? It was a good day for us. We had a lot of issues with the car. … Just one of those days that really tested us and we came out with second. It was a good day.”

Third through 12th were Matt Kenseth (178.108 mph), Ryan Blaney (177.897), Kurt Busch (177.799), Brad Keselowski (177.792), Kyle Larson (177.557), Jamie McMurray (177.368), Joey Logano (177.256), Ryan Newman (177.026), Michael McDowell (176.918) and Kevin Harvick (176.561).

McDowell’s effort was impressive, his highest start ever at Pocono (previous best was 27th in 2013).

“That’s a big jump, going from 27th to 11th,” McDowell told FS1. “We unloaded with a good car and just made it better every run. We haven’t been great in qualifying, but we’re coming off three straight top-20s, so we’ve had good cars and good speed and today we put it all together.”

It was also his best qualifying effort this season and equaled his 11th qualifying spot last summer at Watkins Glen.

Hendrick Motorsports struggled during the session, with Dover winner Jimmie Johnson being the highest qualifier – albeit 19th.

Chase Elliott qualified 25th, Kasey Kahne 26th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 28th.

However, Earnhardt’s run will essentially not count as he blew an engine in practice earlier in the day and then had to replace it, meaning he will start Sunday’s race from the back of the 39-car field.

Earnhardt tweeted that even though he’ll start at the back of the pack, NASCAR preferred that he make at least one qualifying attempt.

This is the second time this season that Hendrick Motorsports failed to place one of its four cars in the final round of qualifying. The other time was Texas, when the cars of Earnhardt, Elliott and Kahne did not make an attempt because they couldn’t get their cars through pre-qualifying inspection in time.

Jimmie Johnson was the only car to get through inspection then, qualified 24th and then won the race.

Click here for full qualifying results.

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NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Denny Hamlin showing ‘remarkable consistency’

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Things have been going relatively well for Denny Hamlin on the track in 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway sixth in points. Through five races, he’s finished outside the top six once (17th, Las Vegas).

NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan discussed his season so far in addition to Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Letarte said Hamlin has displayed “remarkable consistency.”

“Denny Hamlin is in my mind a super star driver that I know I am guilty of leaving him out of super star conversations,” Letarte said.

Ryan pointed to mistakes on pit road that have prevented Hamlin from enjoying more success this season and in his career overall. His result at Las Vegas was the result of a speeding penalty.

“Five races this season, four pit mistakes,” Ryan said. “He overshot his box at Daytona, he did that at Fontana, he sped in the pits at Phoenix. While I think they’ve had speed, I think that team is still stumbling in the same ways it has in the past. Unless they correct that, I don’t know if they’re championship level yet.”

Hamlin heads to Martinsville where he has won a career-best five races.

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Trevor Bayne on Charlotte Roval: ‘You have to be on your game’

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Rain washed out the second day of Goodyear tire testing Wednesday on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval. Goodyear has tentatively scheduled May 1 as a make-up test date.

Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Kyle Larson took part in the test Tuesday.

“I just took some slow pace laps and got a feel for the race track,” Bayne said in a statement from Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I was nervous, but I wasn’t anxious because I was never going to go out there and make qualifying laps. We worked our pace in and our plan, we stuck to it. I felt really good by the end of the day.

“You have to be on your game, that’s for sure. You can’t really let your guard down anywhere. There’s no room to make mistakes. If you make a mistake, you’re going to pay for it pretty quickly. If you try to do something and it doesn’t work, you’ll pay the price. It’s going to be a survival race. … If you’re smart, you take care of your car and you don’t make mistakes, you’ll have a really good shot at the end for a good finish. I enjoyed it. It was a challenge for me – something new – and I enjoyed that part of it.”

Organizational tests at Charlotte will be in July. There will be two different sessions. Each team is allowed to test at one of the two sessions, which will be July 10 (rain date of July 11) and July 17 (rain date of July 18).

The Charlotte Roval hosts the final race of the first round of the Cup playoffs on Sept. 30 on NBC.

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NASCAR issues two fines for unsecured lug nuts at Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR announced two crew chief fines for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Adam Stevens, crew chief on Kyle Busch‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Xfinity Series, Eric Phillips, the crew chief for Ryan Preece‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

No other penalties were announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Drivers to watch, favorite sports upsets

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and begins to look forward to this weekend’s racing at Martinsville Speedway.

Marty Snider hosts with Dale Jarrett, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan from the “Big Oak Table” in Charlotte.

What to expect from today’s show.

  • The same names have been dominating the headlines in the first five races in the 2018 season. We will take a look at some of the other drivers to be on the lookout for as the season rolls on.
  • One of NASCAR’s most historic tracks is up this weekend – Martinsville! We’ll check out some of the recent drama “The Paperclip” has provided ahead of the race.
  • In the spirit of March Madness, our panel will tell us about their most memorable sports moments, as well as some of NASCAR’s biggest upsets.
  • Plus, The Indianapolis 500 will have a new home in 2019. We’ll have all the details on NASCAR America.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.