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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>
Biffle earns first Coors Light Pole Award of '16 at Daytona
RELATED: Starting lineup " See all 40 cars DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Greg Biffle came out of nowhere. Winless since 2013 and without a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole since the fall Charlotte race in 2012, the driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford scorched Daytona International Speedway on Friday to claim the top starting spot for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 (at 7:45 p.m. ET on NBC). In the second and final round of knockout qualifying, Biffle toured the 2.5-mile restrictor-plate track in 46.643 seconds (192.955 mph) to wrestle the Coors Light Pole Award from former RFR teammate Carl Edwards (192.748 mph) by .050 seconds. The pole was Biffle’s second at a plate track, the first coming when he led the field to green in the 2004 Daytona 500 , not quite eight months after Biffle won the only plate race of his career -- the 2003 Coke Zero 400 . Both were career-firsts for the Biff. All told, Biffle has won 13 poles in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but Friday’s was particularly significant because of the boost it give his organization, which has been struggling for the past few years to find speed in the wake of the departure of veterans Matt Kenseth and Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing . "It is a huge confidence-builder, and coming out of here with a good finish, that’s a lot of momentum for the team," Biffle said. "Qualifying on the pole, getting a good run and moving on to the next race -- we need that. "We need those good finishes and momentum and encouragement. Winning the pole is all smiles on those guys pushing the car up there and getting the pictures. They’re pumped right now. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow night." In a backup car with no practice laps because of a wreck in Saturday morning’s practice, Kyle Busch (192.336 mph) qualified third. Biffle’s teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (192.320 mph), earned the fourth starting spot, followed by Brad Keselowski (192.254 mph) and Austin Dillon (192.254 mph), who lost the fifth spot to Keselowski on an owner points tiebreaker. Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . failed to make the top 12 and will start 16th. Jimmie Johnson (eighth) was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to advance to the second round, just as Kurt Busch (10th) was the only Stewart-Haas Racing entry to do so. Earnhardt, however, wasn’t particularly concerned about his starting position. "I think we’ll be good," he said. "We worked on our car to try and help it drive better. That might take some straight-line speed out of it, but it’s going to hopefully help us be able to make moves we need to make in the race. "It's going to be slick in the race, and handling is going to be real important. I'm more concerned really with the car driving good. Might not be the fastest car out there, (but) that's not the car that is going to win the race. I think (that’s going to be) the guy that's got the best handling package. This place is going to be pretty slick." Biffle was fastest in both rounds of qualifying, pacing the first session at 192.629 mph. "After that first session, I knew we had to be worried about (Greg)," Edwards said. "We ran a really good lap in the second session, but those guys were fast. They put the hard work in, they deserve it and I know how hard those guys work over there. "And I guess in a way, it’s cool to see them have success. You hate to get beat by anyone, but knowing those guys and knowing how much they work, it’s good to see them have this day."
Carl corners the field, gets Coors Light Pole Award
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman talks to Carl Edwards after he won the Coors Light Pole Award at Sonoma Raceway.
Biffle claims first Coors Light Pole Award since 2012
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman talks to Greg Biffle after earning his first Coors Light Pole Awards since Charlotte in 2012.
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.
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)."
Truex Jr. earns Coors Light Pole for Coca-Cola 600
RELATED: Lineup " See each car in Sunday's race CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr . crashed a Ford party on Thursday night, winning the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). With his team making adjustments to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota throughout the qualifying session, Truex saved his best lap for the round that counted, covering the 1.5-mile distance in 28.077 seconds (192.328 mph) to edge Team Penske Ford driver Joey Logano (192.007 mph) by .047 seconds for the top starting spot in NASCAR's longest race. The Coors Light Pole Award was Truex's second of the season and the ninth of his career. Both of the New Jersey driver's poles this year have come on 1.5-mile tracks, the previous one at Kansas Speedway earlier this month. "We really had to work pretty hard for it today," said Truex, whose lap in the final round of qualifying was .27 seconds faster than his fastest practice lap. "It was just one of those Charlotte deals where the track was continuously changing. "We were just chasing the race track and changing the car and really never got it close to right until that last run. I'm really just proud of the effort and proud of all my guys for that. It feels good – 600 miles, that first pit stall (the pole winner's prerogative) … We're going to be on pit road a lot on Sunday night, and that's certainly going to be an advantage. "Hopefully, we can take advantage of it and make it work for us." Logano led both the first and second rounds but couldn’t match Truex’s top speed in the third and final session. "I got a little bit tight landing in (Turn) 1 and then a little bit free off (the corner)," Logano said. "It wasn't much. And then (Turns) 3 and 4, I actually thought was a pretty good corner. "So I would say most of it was down in 1 and 2 – probably at landing and through the center is where I lost most of my momentum. It's not much. Half-a-tenth of a second doesn't take long." Logano was the best of the Ford drivers, who held three of the four top spots in the first round of knockout qualifying and swept the top four in the second. In the final round, Fords were second, third and fifth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . qualified third at 191.428 mph, followed by Denny Hamlin (191.388 mph) and Brad Keselowski (190.968 mph). Joining Stenhouse in the top 10 were his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle (sixth) and Trevor Bayne (10th), marking the first time since the April race at Texas in 2014 that three RFR cars have made the final round of knockout qualifying. Dale Earnhardt Jr . will start 25th after failing to advance past the first round by .014 seconds. Matt Kenseth (27th), Austin Dillon (28th) and Kasey Kahne (29th) also will have to come from deep in the field after disappointing efforts in time trials. Kurt Busch , who topped the speed chart in opening practice with the fastest lap of the day (192.843 mph), will start 13th after failing to make the final round by .08 seconds.
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.
Edwards earns Coors Light pole; JGR sweeps front row
RELATED: Full race lineup " See all 40 cars BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Carl Edwards wins the pole at Bristol, good things happen -- for Edwards. So forgive the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing if he feels optimistic about Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. With the only sub-15-second lap in the money round of Friday's knockout qualifying at the .533-mile short track, Edwards won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his third at Bristol and the 18th of his career. In Edwards' two other pole-winning efforts at Bristol, he has finished first (2008) and second (2011). "I didn't know that," said Edwards, who practiced in both race trim and qualifying trim in Friday's opening session and was pleased with the speed in his car in both configurations. "As I've spent more time at JGR, I've just learned that, from the top to the bottom, it's just a real team. It's fun to be a part of it. and we're having a good time. Hopefully, we can turn this into a win. We have that first pit stall, my guys will be excited about that, and we'll just go get 'em." Edwards, nicknamed "Concrete Carl" for his success on concrete racing surfaces, rocketed around "The World's Fastest Half-Mile" in 14.991 seconds (127.997 mph) to edge teammate Matt Kenseth (127.419 mph) for the top starting spot by .068 seconds. "That's pretty cool to run a less than 15-second lap," Edwards said. "It's a real testament to my guys and everybody on this team has been working so hard. You see it each week. The JGR Toyotas are up front, and these cars are really nice to drive. (Crew chief) Dave Rogers and everybody did a really nice job." Ford driver Joey Logano (127.191 mph) qualified third to break up the Joe Gibbs Racing party in the top five. JGR teammates Denny Hamlin (126.804 mph) and Kyle Busch (126.553 mph) will start fourth and fifth, respectively. Having suffered through a star-crossed early season that has produced but one top 10 in seven races, Kenseth hopes his second-place starting position will signal a change in his fortunes. "Obviously, all of the JGR cars were fast again so thanks to everyone who's building these things and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) with the engines," Kenseth said. "In the first round we were pretty good, we thought, and then the second round we tried something and we were too tight, and then the third round we were a little too loose really. "We were just that much off, but overall it was a great day and we'll still get a good pit stall and a good place to start, and hopefully we'll get it driving good tomorrow (in Saturday's practice) and we can race them on Sunday." Jimmie Johnson had the fastest Chevrolet, qualifying sixth. Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr ., AJ Allmendinger and Trevor Bayne completed the top 10 in time trials. Note: On his first lap in the opening round, Ty Dillon hooked the cub off Turn 2 and spun the No. 14 Chevrolet he is driving in place of injured Tony Stewart . The car slid into the back of Landon Cassill 's Ford, which was rolling on the apron after completing a qualifying run. Both cars were damaged cosmetically, but neither team had to resort to a backup car. Cassill qualified 28th, Dillon 34th. RELATED: See the spin from early in qualifying
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."