Kurt Busch sets NASCAR qualifying record at Texas

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Kurt Busch earned the pole Friday for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 with a track record at Texas Motor Speedway.

But Busch’s 22nd career was so much more in the bigger picture.

His speed of 200.915 mph (26.877 seconds) was the fastest run at a 1.5-mile track in a stock car.

“Happy birthday, Old Man,” Busch told NBCSN of crew chief Tony Gibson, who turned 54 today. “We just freed it up and the Ford stuck. Our guys are still working hard and pushing. There was something good coming into today and it was Gibson’s birthday.

“We’ve had bad luck and have to get ahead of it, to get a step ahead instead of a step behind.”

Five drivers qualified at more than 200 mph. Denny Hamlin was second (200.617 mph), followed by Kevin Harvick (200.378), Erik Jones (200.326) and Kyle Busch (200.252).

“It’s crazy speed,” Hamlin said.

Sixth through 10th were Daniel Suarez (199.593 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (199.431), Ryan Blaney (199.380), Jimmie Johnson (198.727) and Brad Keselowski (198.478).

Seven of the eight remaining playoff contenders were in the top 10, but not Chase Elliott.

Elliott, who ranks last among the playoff drivers in the points, did not make a qualifying attempt because his car failed inspection for qualifying multiple times. He’ll start 34th Sunday.

“We’ll just have to play it by ear and see what happens (Sunday),” Elliott told NBCSN. “I thought we had a decent race car and was really excited about qualifying.”

Twenty-six points out of a transfer spot, Elliott is practically in a must-win situation (or next week’s race at Phoenix) to advance to the championship round in Miami.

“I’m looking forward to Sunday, we know we’ll have to start in the back, and we’ll try to get it driving good tomorrow,” Elliott said. “Jimmie (Johnson) started in the back in the spring and it worked out fine for him (won the race). We see it every weekend. Guys are faced with adversity. I think it’s doable.”

This is the second consecutive time Elliott has failed to make a qualifying attempt at Texas because his car could not pass inspection.

Other drivers not recording a time in the first round included Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne and Joey Logano.

Click here for full qualifying results.