Kyle Busch wins Cup pole for Quaker State 400; Kyle Larson in last after failing inspection

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Kyle Busch will start from the pole position of Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway after the threat of weather forced NASCAR to end qualifying through two of three rounds.

Busch claimed his third Cup pole of the season less than two hours after he won the pole for Friday night’s Xfinity race.

The starting top five for the Quaker State 400 will be Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth (who made news earlier in the day), Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin.

“Certainly this is worthwhile for our team and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. “The guys have done an amazing job this year at building faster race cars as we’ve gone on this year, we started out a little behind. Just right there so close having an opportunity to win each and every week, we just need to bust through and get it to happen. The Snickers car this weekend has been fast and looking forward to taking this Toyota Camry to victory lane here in Kentucky.”

Busch’s pole comes in the first race back for crew chief Adam Stevens, who was suspended for the past four races. Stevens was suspended after Busch’s left-rear tire fell off following a pit stop at Dover.

“It’s obviously better to have Adam than not to have Adam,” Busch said. “We’ve been fast even though we haven’t had him on top of the pit box every week. We just want to make sure that we can stay fast and the guys have been doing a great job without him and of course now that he’s back with them and hopefully he’s the game changer for us to get to victory lane.”

Points leader Kyle Larson will start last in 40th after his No. 42 Chevrolet didn’t clear prequalifying inspection in time. Larson started at the rear for the same reason in the Coca-Cola 600. At Texas Motor Speedway in April, Larson was one of nine drivers who were unable to make a lap in qualifying.

“I would like to go out there and qualify because I feel like I have a really good shot at the pole,” Larson said. “We will be fine from the back. Our Target Chevy was really good today, I thought, in race trim, better than I’ve ever felt at Kentucky. Obviously, it will be hard to pass, but we also thought the same thing at Texas and we didn’t get to qualify there and I cruised right to the front no problem. So, we will see.”

Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick (whose team barely cleared inspection in time for qualifying), Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10 starting positions.

Coke Zero 400 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will roll off 18th.

Busch, who is winless this season, will try to repeat what he did in the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky in 2011, winning from the first starting spot after qualifying was canceled.

Click here for the results from the truncated qualifying session.

Grant Enfinger wins Truck pole at Gateway

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With a speed of 138.867 mph, Grant Enfinger scored his second career Camping World Truck Series pole and will lead the field to green tonight for the Eaton 200. His first pole came on the restrictor plate Daytona International Speedway in February 2016.

Noah Gragson set a track record in round two of qualification with a speed of 139.035 mph. He slipped to third in the running order during round three.

Enfinger beat Christian Eckes (138.594 mph) by .064 seconds. Eckes is making only his second start in the Truck series. Last week he started ninth and finished eighth at Iowa Speedway.

Gragson (138.402), Justin Haley (138.325) and Ben Rhodes (138.211) rounded out the top five.

Johnny Sauter (137.358) failed to advance to the final round of qualification and will start 13th.

Camden Murphy and BJ McLeod failed to qualify.

Click here for the complete lineup.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma

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Kyle Larson won his second consecutive pole at Sonoma and will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Martin Truex Jr. will line up alongside Larson on the front row.

Chase Elliott qualified third, the best of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers who advanced to the top 12. Jamie McMurray qualified fourth to place both Chip Ganassi Racing on the first two rows.

AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five.

Click here for full qualification results.

 

Kyle Larson wins pole for Sonoma Cup race

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Kyle Larson posted a lap of 94.597 mph to win the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350. It was his second consecutive pole at Sonoma and the sixth of his career.

Larson beat Martin Truex Jr. (94.484 mph) by .090 seconds.

Chase Elliott (94.461), Jamie McMurray (94.227) and AJ Allmendinger (93.925) rounded out the top five. He was fastest in round one of qualification with a speed of 94.477 mph.

Hendrick Motorsports placed three of their drivers in the final round. Jimmie Johnson (93.824) qualified seventh. William Byron (93.756) qualified eighth. Alex Bowman (93.267) qualified 17th.

In his first race back since Matt Kenseth took over the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Trevor Bayne barely missed advancing to the final round. With a speed of 93.455 mph, he qualified 13th.

Clint Bowyer (93.252) was unable to back up his time from Friday’s practice and will roll off the grid 19th.

Click here for full qualification results.

For Clint Bowyer, Sonoma Raceway is a lot like Martinsville

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Clint Bowyer didn’t grow up road racing; he cut his teeth on dirt tracks in the Midwest. And yet, he had an immediate affinity for Sonoma Raceway. In his second start there, while driving for Richard Childress in 2007, he finished fourth.

In fact, Bowyer enters the Toyota/SaveMart 350 with seven top-five finishes in 12 starts that includes a runner-up finish in last year’s Sonoma race. If not for a couple of misfortunes (crash damage in 2010 and an electrical problem in 2016), he might well have swept the top 10 since scoring that first top five as a sophomore.

Perhaps the reason for that immediate success is that he considers Sonoma to be a twisted version of Martinsville Speedway – a track on which he won this March to snap a 190-race winless streak.

“I think you embrace this track and road racing in general just like you do Martinsville,” Bowyer said on Friday before heading out to put his No. 14 Ford at the top of the first practice speed chart. “Nobody shows up at Martinsville and goes to the top of the board and is fast and has success and navigates traffic to win that race right off the bat. It just doesn’t happen and it doesn’t happen here either.”

His Sonoma success has not translated to road courses in general, however.

Yes, Bowyer swept the top five on NASCAR’s two road courses last year, but the fifth-place finish he scored at Watkins Glen International was only the second of his career on a track that many drivers consider to be less technical than Sonoma. In 12 starts there, he has earned only five top 10s.

“Watkins Glen is so fast. It is just dive-bombs and you are really carrying a lot of speed at a place like Watkins Glen.

“Here, it is like that short track. It is like being at Martinsville. Did you see my car at the end of the race last year? It was destroyed. I drove up through and passed the field twice because of mistakes that we made and got spun out once. It was a wild race to be able to finish second. You can’t do that at Watkins Glen. That car wouldn’t have ran in the top 10 at Watkins Glen.”

Nine different drivers have won at Sonoma in the last nine races. Given the dominance of Harvick (who won last year) and Kyle Busch (the 2015 winner), many think they are the most likely to end that streak. But Bowyer also has an opportunity to end the streak of unique winners. He won the 2012 edition of this race by holding off Tony Stewart – the driver with the second-most road course wins in NASCAR history.

“You have to be able to have fun on this race track,” Bowyer said. “It is a challenge. Each and every corner is different. There is no perfect setup or perfect line. It is literally one of the only tracks you go to where you are out there racing and have a smile on your face. You might even get a chuckle.”