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.
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.