Kurt Busch wins first Sprint Cup pole since 2013 for Auto Club 400

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Kurt Busch continues to make up for lost time.

In his second week back from a three-race suspension by NASCAR, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver claimed the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway with a speed of 185.142 mph.

The pole, Busch’s first since Darlington in May 2013, comes a week after he finished fifth at Phoenix in his first race back since being suspended in the days leading up to the Daytona 500.

“This is huge for Gene Haas. … Thank you, Gene, for believing in me,” Busch said after the final qualifying round. “This is my job: come to the track, drive the car and put it up on the pole and go for wins. That is what Gene has told me to do from the get-go and I’m glad I have this chance to go back out there and live up to why he hired me.”

NASCAR suspended Busch after a Delaware Family Court ruled against him and issued a protective order in favor of former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

The pole comes practically in the backyard of Gene Haas. Haas Automation is located in Oxnard, Calif., two hours west of Fontana, where Auto Club Speedway calls home.

“(I) drove over there yesterday, battled that good L.A. morning traffic, that was fun,” Busch said. “(I went) to do an appearance there to see all the employees and everybody that has been so anxious for me to get back and feel the love and the warmth from them. It gives you that extra motivation. That is probably what got us on the pole today was all the love from Haas Automation.”

Busch’s Stewart-Hass Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, who is on a roll after winning the last two Sprint Cup events at Las Vegas and Pheonix, qualified second with a speed of 185.047 mph. It’s only the second time the front row has ever been swept by a pair of Stewart-Haas drivers.

“Well it is definitely not going to hurt anything,” Harvick said. “I’m just really proud of everybody on the No. 41 and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and everybody on our No. 4 team for everything that they do.

“Hopefully, we can keep it up this week. I didn’t get to run where I wanted to run (because) there were three cars on the apron down there where I wanted to be that had finished their lap.”

Rounding out the top five are Matt Kenseth (184.966 mph), David Ragan (184.866) in replacement of Kyle Busch, and Kyle Larson (184.337).

Not in the top 12 to go for the pole in the final qualifying round was Joey Logano, who qualified 13th. Logano missed out on making the final qualifying round for the first time in nine races, dating back to the fall Talladega race.

1. Kurt Busch … 185.142
2. Kevin Harvick … 185.047
3. Matt Kenseth … 184.966
4. David Ragan … 184.886
5. Kyle Larson … 184.337
6. Denny Hamlin … 184.233
7. Jeff Gordon … 184.087
8. Brad Keselowski … 184.063
9. Ryan Newman … 183.725
10. Clint Bowyer … 183.407
11. Paul Menard … 183.383
12. Martin Truex Jr. … 183.299
13. Joey Logano … 183.323
14. Jimmie Johnson … 183.257
15. Carl Edwards … 182.978
16. Sam Hornish Jr. … 182.904
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 182.848
18. AJ Allmendinger … 182.764
19. Kasey Kahne … 182.746
20. Tony Stewart … 182.445
21. Austin Dillon … 182.343
22. Danica Patrick … 182.140
23. Aric Almirola … 181.800
24. Michael Annett … 180.397
25. Brian Scott … 181.768
26. Jamie McMurray … 181.626
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 181.557
28. Alex Bowman … 181.433
29. Greg Biffle … 181.392
30. Brett Moffitt … 181.219
31. Justin Allgaier … 180.995
32. Cole Whitt … 180.560
33. Chris Buescher … 180.505
34. Jeb Burton … 180.023
35. Josh Wise … 179.775
36. Trevor Bayne … 179.314
37. Casey Mears … Owner points
38. Brendan Gaughan … Owner points
39. Mike Bliss … Owner points
40. Landon Cassill … Owner points
41. J.J. Yeley … Owner points
42. Matt DiBenedetto … Owner points
43. David Gilliland … Owner points

Did not qualify: Reed Sorenson and Travis Kvapil