Albert: Hendrick, JGR, Penske should be prime players Sunday
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Daytona schedule " Starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's no such thing as a clear-cut favorite for Sunday's Daytona 500 . After six days of on-track activity for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , several camps can lay claim to having an edge, but singling out one driver is akin to a roulette wheel's spin. "We come down here a lot of years. You kind of pick a guy," said Jamie McMurray , the 2010 champion of the 500 who will start third in this year's running. "If he finishes, he's going to be there in the end. I think there's 10 guys that have a legitimate shot to win this year." What is clear is that Sunday's winner of the Great American Race (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will have the benefit of a fast horse, potential assistance from teammates and the combination of an adept spotter and a frequently-used mirror. And if conventional wisdom holds serve, Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports should be the prime players in that game. Preliminary races -- Thursday's Duel qualifiers and last weekend's "The Clash" exhibition from a busy Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway -- have shown that a strong leading car has the ability to change lanes and stem the aerodynamic momentum from an onrushing line of cars. The Duels showed the powerful but precarious nature of leading: In the first 150-miler, polesitter Chase Elliott staved off the pack with a series of blocks to lead the final 24 laps. In the nightcap, Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- who led for 53 circuits -- zigged too late when Denny Hamlin zagged with two laps left, and Hamlin led an organized aero charge to the checkers. MORE: Logano wins 'The Clash' " Duel 1 results " Duel 2 results "Because the way the lanes form, it's just power in numbers," said Elliott, the 500's Coors Light Pole Award winner for the second straight year. "It's a power in what cars are lined up in what row, how they're stacked against you, whether they're two-wide or three-wide behind you. There certainly are guys that do a good job. Once they get out front they're tough to get by. We see that all the time at these places." RELATED: Elliott joins elite in back-to-back Daytona 500 pole wins Momentum can be an intangible in other sports, the vibe of a winning streak or the underlying oomph of the tide turning in a certain game. In NASCAR -- and especially in the restrictor-plate genre of stock-car racing -- it's a palpable phenomenon. While aerodynamics can be a great equalizer for underdogs, the power of Penske's pair of Fords driven by Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski stands out. But so does the muscle flexed by defending 500 champion Hamlin and his flotilla of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. And it's unwise to count out Hendrick & Co.; which monopolized the front row in qualifying with Elliott and Earnhardt. MORE: Penske proves plate tracks take more than just luck One thing is all but certain, especially when it gets to crunch time with the Harley J. Earl Trophy on the line: The cat-and-mouse between the race leader and the pack will be more exacting, with far more take than give. "I'm sure that will be amped up Sunday," Elliott said after his Duel win. "I think it was similar to what you'll see."
Hamlin holds on for Coors Light Pole at Richmond
RELATED: Starting lineup " See every car in the field RICHMOND, Va. – Don't tell Denny Hamlin his first pole of the season isn't significant. In the money round of Friday's knockout qualifying session, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota toured .75-mile Richmond International Raceway in 22.069 seconds (122.344 mph) to earn the top starting spot for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the final race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season. "I thought for sure we had too many laps on our tires," said Hamlin, who qualified in the top 10 for the 24th consecutive race. "A lot of the guys that we were challenging only had one lap per session, but my car didn't really come in that quick, so I had to run multiple laps. "And on a short track that wears out tires, I thought we were at a huge disadvantage. Just proud of the effort. ... And, obviously, running that fast for that many laps tells us we have a really good car for the long runs. So pretty optimistic, and we'll see if we can't get a win." Though Hamlin edged Kyle Larson by .010 seconds to earn his first Coors Light Pole Award of 2016, his third at Richmond and the 24th of his career, the real drama of Friday afternoon involved drivers who qualified deeper in the field—in some cases, much deeper. Pocono winner Chris Buescher , who is fighting to stay in the top 30 in the standings and thereby earn a Chase spot, qualified a disappointing 31st. Adding to the stress of the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford was the qualifying performance of David Ragan , who is 31st in points and immediately behind Buescher. Ragan was 19th fastest in the first round of knockout qualifying, 12 positions better than Buescher. The problem? Buescher is just 11 points ahead of Ragan entering Saturday’s race, with each position worth one point. Ragan slipped to 21st in the second round and failed to advance, meaning he'll start the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota 10 spots on the grid ahead of Buescher—too far for the rookie driver to enjoy a comfortable night's sleep. Buescher also can stay in the top 30 if he finishes 10 spots ahead of Landon Cassill , his teammate. "That's not where we wanted to be in qualifying with our CSX Ford Fusion," Buescher said. "We were a little better than we were last time here, so there is a little bit of positive to it, believe it or not. We'll be able to work our way up. "At the end of the day, this weekend is about something bigger. We're trying to stay out of trouble and be there at the end. It won't be an easy walk from where we are at right now, but we'll be able to work our way up." RELATED: How bubble drivers fare at Richmond Jamie McMurray (122.189 mph) took control of another important head-to-head matchup, making the final round of qualifying and earning the fourth starting spot. The last driver currently in a Chase-eligible position on points, McMurray enters Saturday’s race with a 22-point advantage over Ryan Newman , whose effort stalled in the second round. Hit with a 15-point penalty on Wednesday after his No. 31 Chevrolet failed the laser inspection station after Sunday's race at Darlington, Newman will start 15th, likely needing a victory to advance to the Chase. "Well, it's a really big weekend for us, but more than that, I'm just thrilled how both of our cars are running," said McMurray, Larson's teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing . "We've just made such big improvements. "We ran good at a two-mile track at Michigan. We ran good at Darlington with a different rules package, and we've run good at a short track. As an organization, it's been really good, and the next 10 races, if we can get in, it's going to be pretty awesome, because our cars have peaked at the right time." Austin Dillon , who starts on Saturday nine points ahead of McMurray, took a significant step toward his first-ever Chase spot with an eighth-place qualifying effort at 121.638 mph. At the other end of the spectrum, another driver likely to experience a sleepless night is Chase Elliott , who qualified 34th in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Elliott starts the night eight points ahead of Dillon and 17 ahead of McMurray. All three drivers share one hope, however—that there's not a new 2016 winner currently outside the Chase grid to reduce the number of Chase spots available on points from three to two (assuming Buescher remains in the top 30). RELATED: Elliott positive despite career-worst starting spot "We're just not going fast enough, for sure," Elliott said after failing to reach the second round. "I really don't know what our problem is, but we struggled in our mock runs earlier today, too. So, we just need to think about it, I guess, and try to go to work tonight. "We're giving it our best effort. It just hasn't been where we need to be. The bad news is that it's a terrible starting spot; but the good news is that it's a long race tomorrow night. We have some teammates that are fast, so hopefully we can lean on them and try to get our Chevrolet a little better." Matt Kenseth , Hamlin's teammate, qualified third. Kurt Busch , who paced the first two rounds, slipped to fifth in the session that decided the starting order of the top 12. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex, who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. "The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex. Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Logano earns Coors Light Pole at Martinsville
RELATED: Full starting lineup MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The third time was the charm for Joey Logano . Then again, so were the first and second. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford dominated qualifying for Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET on FS1), topping the speed chart in all three sessions of Friday's knockout qualifying at Martinsville Speedway . The Coors Light Pole Award was the third straight for Logano at the .526-mile paperclip-shaped short track, marking the first time a driver has won three consecutive poles at Martinsville since Jeff Gordon accomplished the feat in 2003-2004. Navigating the speedway in 19.513 seconds (97.043 mph), Logano claimed the top starting in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race for the 15th time in his career. Logano, who was taken out of last year's Chase race when Matt Kenseth drove him into the Turn 1 wall, also is the third driver to sweep all three rounds in time trials since the group qualifying format was instituted at the start of the 2014 season. "I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Logano said of his team. "I say all the time that Martinsville is the most important track to start up front, and that's when you've got to come here and really show what you've got. "This is a nice little fire for us to get going. We've had a good season so far, but you want to break through and get some wins, and this pole is definitely going to help with some momentum." Logano edged outside front-row starter Kasey Kahne (97.033 mph) by .002 seconds. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet hadn't enjoyed a top-five position on the grid since last October's Chase race at Talladega. "It feels good," Kahne said. "The car was really fast, this Great Clips Chevrolet. The guys did a nice job in practice and in qualifying. I just kept getting better with my laps. We didn't make any adjustments. The car is fine. Just let me get my laps a little better. So we did that, and it was close. "Joey just barely got us. But it is definitely a good starting spot. That was one of my goals today was to help out on pit road (by earning second pit selection). Pit road is huge here. We have the best pit crew for stops, than anyone, in my opinion. And if I can help them on pit road, myself, and get a better spot, I think all that will be beneficial on Sunday." Brian Vickers , who led Friday's opening practice at Martinsville, qualified third at 96.864 mph. Paul Menard (96.854 mph) was fourth, followed by Ryan Newman (96.736 mph) and AJ Allmendinger (96.676 mph). Vickers was the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver to advance past the first round. Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch , both former winners at the track, will start 19th and 23rd, respectively. Denny Hamlin -- reigning race winner and one of the pre-race favorites -- earned the eighth starting spot, but eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson wasn't as fortunate. The six-time Sprint Cup champion squeaked into the second round by .007 seconds over Carl Edwards but couldn't improve beyond the 24th-place starting position. The two leading drivers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle, however, both made the top 12. Chase Elliott will take the green flag from in 10th, with Ryan Blaney right behind him in 12th, as the Wood Brothers Racing team returns to Martinsville for the first time since 2011. Dale Earnhardt Jr . experienced brake issues and qualified 21st.
Logano lands Coors Light Pole at Michigan
RELATED: Starting lineup " See all 40 cars Joey Logano zoomed to the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway . Logano drove the Team Penske No. 22 Ford to a best lap of 199.557 mph in the third and final session. The pole is Logano's second of the season, second at the 2-mile track and 16th of his Sprint Cup career. He won from the pole at Michigan in August of 2013. Logano had settled for the second starting spot five times in 14 races this season. "It just feels really good because the last couple of weeks we've come in second in the final round," Logano said. "We've been qualifying really well with this 22 car, we just haven't had the pole, so it's really nice to finally break through and get a pole with this new package. It really goes to show how great this Team Penske is on preparing cars from the shop and really not knowing what they're coming to. It has some great adjustability in it and a fast car, obviously." "Couldn't be more proud of the team with our qualifying efforts as of recently, it's just we finally won the right round -- the last one." Martin Truex Jr ., the Coca-Cola 600 winner, will start second in Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after posting a lap of 199.016 mph in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota. Three-time series champion Tony Stewart was third, marking his best qualifying effort in seven races so far this season after returning in April from an offseason back injury. Denny Hamlin (198.774 mph) and rookie Ryan Blaney (198.588 mph) rounded out the top five in qualifying. The three rounds marked the first qualifying session under new aerodynamic rules designed to reduce downforce and sideforce. The pole-winning speed was well under the track record of 206.558 mph set by Jeff Gordon in August 2014. Two former Michigan winners -- Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- failed to advance past the opening 20-minute round of group qualifying. Qualifying runs for Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet were twice interrupted by red flags -- one for a stray duct left as debris early in the session by Jamie McMurray 's car, and another for a crash with in Turn 3 by David Ragan with 4:21 left. A third effort by Harvick was only 29th-fastest, just outside the 24-driver cut. Earnhardt managed only the 27th-fastest lap. RELATED: Bad luck bites Harvick in qualifying Kurt Busch , the defending race winner and last weekend's victor at Pocono, will start 17th after missing the 12-driver cut in the second round of qualifying. Denny Hamlin topped the first round, and Joey Logano paced the second round in the elimination-style qualifying session. Qualifying was delayed by 15 minutes because of a backlog of cars trying to pass inspection. NASCAR competition officials said several teams struggled to comply with new rules regarding "skew," or rear-axle offset. Four drivers -- Michael Annett , Greg Biffle , Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr . -- did not have cars present on the grid once qualifying got going at 4:30 p.m. ET. Sunday's 400-mile event is the 15th of 36 races this year for the Sprint Cup Series.
Busch picks up Coors Light Pole Award in search of Brickyard defense
RELATED: Full starting lineup " See the full field SPEEDWAY, Ind. – A sweep at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nothing new to Kyle Busch. But this year, he started early. With a lap at 184.634 mph (48.745 seconds) in the final round of Saturday's knockout qualifying, Busch claimed the pole position for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earlier in the day, the driver who swept both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races at Indy last year earned the pole award ahead of the heat races prior to Saturday afternoon’s Lilly Diabetes 250 XFINITY race. But the Sprint Cup pole that completed the Saturday sweep was special, because it was the first for Busch at the vaunted Brickyard. "I haven't been great at qualifying here, but the guys gave me a great piece this time around, and I'm real pumped about that," said Busch, who claimed his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season and the 19th of his career. "We're starting first in both of these (races), and hopefully we can end that way. "It means a lot (to win the pole). It's definitely pretty special to be running the way that we're running and to have the success that we've had here the last couple of years at Indy, and I’d love nothing more than to try to win here again." Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was .023 seconds faster than the No. 19 of teammate Carl Edwards (184.547 mph). "I was happy with my lap," Edwards said. "I was surprised Kyle got me. That was a good lap for him – I mean, that was a good lap that he ran because I felt like my lap was pretty good – but, yeah, it's frustrating right now to be second because it's so close, and the pole position is obviously huge here. "But by tomorrow, the race gets started and I think I'll be pretty happy with that starting spot, so just good job by all my guys." Making his last appearance at Indy as a Sprint Cup Series driver, Tony Stewart earned the third starting spot with a lap at 184.328 mph and knew exactly where he had lost critical speed. "I just wish I could do lap three (final round) one more time and not clip the apron in (Turn) 4," Stewart said. "I think we could have been on the pole." RELATED: Stewart discusses his qualifying effort Denny Hamlin qualified fourth, giving JGR three of the top four spots. Brad Keselowski in fifth has the top Ford. Ryan Newman , Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr. , Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will start from positions six through 10, respectively. The time trials were a disappointment for the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, who failed to place a car in the top 12. Jimmie Johnson ran the fastest lap of the day in the first of three rounds, touring the 2.5-mile speedway in 48.435 seconds (185.816 mph). But the six-time series champion failed to advance beyond the second round, losing the 12th and final position to Kurt Busch by .008 seconds. Johnson will start 13th, Chase Elliott 15th and Jeff Gordon , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who is out with concussion-like symptoms, claimed the 21st spot on the grid. "I felt really comfortable right there," said Gordon, who was 15th fastest in the first round. "I feel like today I’m much calmer than I was yesterday (in practice). Usually, my heart is beating more for qualifying than it is for practice, but that wasn't the case. "So, today I feel more relaxed and comfortable in the car. I hope to feel the same way tomorrow. Tomorrow's challenge is going to be being around traffic, and also trying to get the balance of the car right and do that when you're by yourself as well as when you're around other cars." Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field. </p>
Carl Edwards nabs Coors Light Pole Award at Bristol
RELATED: Complete lineup for Bristol " See every car in the field BRISTOL, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin owns a new track record, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards won the round that counted in Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Bristol Motor Speedway . Edwards sped around the .533-mile high-banked concrete short track in 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) to claim the top starting spot for Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA night Race (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), edging Hamlin (131.200 mph) by .023 seconds. Remarkably, Edwards earned his fifth Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his fourth at Bristol and the 21st of his career without making a mock qualifying run during either of Friday's two practice sessions. Instead, the driver of the No. 19 Toyota relied on setup information from his teammates – including Hamlin. "It's nice to have fast teammates," said Edwards, who will try to duplicate his pole-winning, race-winning performance from April. "We wouldn't have had a shot at (the pole) if it wasn’t for them. We thought it was going to rain, so we didn't practice qualifying or anything. My guys made great adjustments based on that information. "I just hope we can finish it off the way we did in the spring." All four JGR drivers qualified in the top five for the 23rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. Kyle Busch (130.931 mph) will start third and Matt Kenseth (130.619 mph) fifth. The only interloper was Ford driver Ryan Blaney (130.637 mph), who grabbed the fourth spot on the grid in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Fusion. With a blistering run in 14.573 seconds (131.668 mph) in the first round, Hamlin broke the track record he set for this event last year, eclipsing his own mark of 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph). But Hamlin was the last of 12 drivers out for the final round and fell just short of Edwards' winning time. "We had really good speed, so I'm pretty optimistic about that," said Hamlin, who will start within the top six for the 15th time this season. "I can't believe we've qualified as good as we have this year and not gotten a pole. "It's unbelievable – still a great effort by our whole team. I hope we can have a great race up here on (Saturday) night and get in Victory Lane." Chris Buescher , fighting to crack the top 30 in the standings and qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (based on his victory at Pocono), qualified 12th, one position behind Jeff Gordon , who made the final round for the first time in his fourth start in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr . Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott had the fastest Chevrolet, qualifying sixth. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Logano leaps to Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car, team rosters BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Joey Logano was looking for a good omen for Sunday, he found it on Friday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway . Touring the two-mile track in 35.697 seconds (201.698 mph) during the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano's third at MIS. On the previous two occasions the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford started first on the grid—in August 2013 and June 2016—he won the subsequent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Should Logano win form the pole on Sunday, he would be the third driver to win three or more Michigan races from the top starting spot, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bill Elliott . "Any time you put your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort, it would be really special for me," said Logano, who has collected three poles this season and 16 in his career. "That's crazy—that's a really, really neat stat. "We've got to do it though. But, obviously, starting up front here is an advantage, for sure. We talk about track position. We talk about safety on restart, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package. And the first pit stall—probably the most important thing of all is keeping the track position through the race." And, of course, when Logano is fast in qualifying trim at MIS, he usually races well, too. "I'm excited about it," he said. "I thought our car was really fast in race trim earlier (in practice). ... I didn't think we were going to make it happen today (in qualifying), but (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk, and I was ready to go. I was going to drive the heck out of that thing." Denny Hamlin (201.406 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph) and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph). Johnson's second-place start led a resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports , which placed all four cars in the top 12 during qualifying for only the second time this season, the first coming in May at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track. "It was just an awesome day for this Lowe's race car and this Lowe's race team," Johnson said. "We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. "My hat's off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they're putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions (Saturday) and roll them into a good race." Johnson participated in a NASCAR organization test (one car per team) on Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway and found the session helpful in finding speed. Indeed, the Hendrick cars more than held their own against the four entries from Joe Gibbs Racing , which have been the dominant force in Cup qualifying this season. Hamlin and Carl Edwards (ninth), were the only two JGR drivers to make the top 12, with Matt Kenseth qualifying 13th and Kyle Busch 16th. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Kyle Busch wins Coors Light Pole Award at Phoenix
RELATED: Complete lineup " See every paint scheme for Sunday AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Running the fastest lap of the day when it counted most, Kyle Busch paced a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep of the top three starting spots for Sunday's Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Busch covered the one-mile distance in 26.014 seconds (138.387 mph) in Friday's final round of knockout qualifying, a session interrupted by Jimmie Johnson's hard wreck against the Turn 2 wall. The Coors Light Pole Award was Busch's first of the season (after an inspection failure cost him the top starting spot at Atlanta), his third at Phoenix and the 18th of his career. "It was a good day," Busch said. "Unloading off the truck, everything seemed to go real well. I wasn't sure about our speed in race trim, but then hopped over to qualifying trim and, for as not as good of a feel that the car had, we had some good speed, so that was definitely a plus -- being able to have some good laps there and being able to run a really good lap there in the last session." Carl Edwards (137.515 mph) was second fastest in the final round, followed by JGR teammate Denny Hamlin (137.426 mph). Kurt Busch (137.394 mph), trying for his third straight pole, will start fourth in Sunday's race. Johnson earned the fifth position on the grid with his first lap in the final round, but the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion went to a backup car after his wreck and will drop to the rear of the field for the start of the race. Johnson initially said said he wasn’t sure what made his car drive straight into the Turn 2 wall, although he later confirmed his steering wheel came off. "Certainly, a lot of 'straight' in an area of the track that I didn't need to have straight," he said. "So, we'll have to get to the bottom of it and see what went on. But, just a really hard impact to the outside wall. "I'm thankful that we have SAFER barriers and soft walls. I'm very disappointed, because we had a very fast race car, and the guys have been working so hard to get this thing tuned-up. Thankfully, we have tomorrow to work on the back-up car and try to get it up to speed and get it going, but this is certainly not what we wanted right now." Johnson's crash wasn't the only calamity in what was a bizarre qualifying session for Hendrick Motorsports. Kasey Kahne's engine caught fire after the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet posted the third fastest lap in the opening round. Forced to change engines after smoke spewed from the air cleaner for several minutes. Kahne will join Johnson at the rear of the field for the start of Sunday’s race. The team surmised later that the engine went into EFI (electronic fuel injection) protection mode and blew up. Kahne was mystified by the problem but said the engine had continued to run after he attempted to shut it off. Kevin Harvick, who has won three of the last four NASCAR Sprint Cup races at PIR, will have to charge from mid-pack after qualifying 18th on Friday. "We’ve just been off in qualifying every week so far," Harvick said. "Just not hitting the balance from practice to qualifying."
Truex tames Kansas for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Lineup " See all 40 cars KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Martin Truex Jr . freely admitted it took time for the No. 78 Furniture Row team to get the hang of three-round knockout qualifying. From the look of Friday's time trials at Kansas Speedway , however, the problem appears to be solved. Charging around the 1.5-mile track in 28.284 seconds (190.921 mph), Truex posted the fastest lap of the day in the money round to earn the pole position for Saturday night's Go Bowling 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1). The Coors Light Pole Award was the eighth of Truex's career and his first since April 2012 at Texas, a string of 147 races. "It kind of took us a while to figure out this three-round deal," said Truex, who edged fellow Toyota driver Matt Kenseth (190.564 mph) for the top starting spot by .053 seconds. "It feels good to get another pole. It's been a long time. We've been really close with our Furniture Row team the past two years -- we qualified second a handful of times -- and we've been right there at it. We've led the first round, we've led the second round. We just haven't quite figured out how to lead that third round ... "Hopefully we'll be able to finish the deal (Saturday) night." Kenseth was fastest in each of the first two knockout rounds but came up short when the pole was decided. "All of our Toyotas had a lot of speed in 'em," said Kenseth, who led all three of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates into the final 12. "I just couldn't quite get that last lap that I wanted. "We had a lot of speed, but we just got a little off our balance there at the end, and Martin was able to get it." JGR driver Denny Hamlin (190.402 mph) qualified third, followed by Kurt Busch (190.134 mph) and Brad Keselowski (189.907 mph), who was one of four Ford drivers to crack the top 12. It was an off day for the Hendrick Motorsports contingent. Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader Chase Elliott qualified 13th, missing the cutoff for the final 12 by .086 seconds. Jimmie Johnson , who overcame engine problems earlier in the day, will start 15th, with Dale Earnhardt Jr . 22nd and Kasey Kahne 27th. Like Kahne, Kevin Harvick was bumped out of the top 24 in the opening round and will take the green flag in 26th position. Kurt Busch , the top qualifying Chevrolet driver, confessed to overdriving Turn 3 during his final run but was optimistic because of positive adjustments made to his car between rounds. "Yeah, I feel good because we made three spring changes going into that qualifying run," Busch said. "Those are things we wanted to try for the race, and we ran out of practice time to do so. It's nice that it turned out positive and the pace in qualifying is fast, yes, but the race will be at nightfall whereas we practiced in the daytime. "This speed should be right in the middle of what we just ran and what changes we made. I think we're cooking up the right batch (for the race)."
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