Denying Kyle Busch a trifecta, Martin Truex Jr. grabs NASCAR pole at Dover

When NASCAR was last at Dover International Speedway back in June Kyle Busch started on the pole, Martin Truex Jr. second. Sunday those spots will be reversed for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Apache Warrior 400.

Truex, the defending race winner, denied Busch his third consecutive pole Friday putting down a lap of 22.407, 160.664 mph just past halfway of the final five minutes to win his third career Dover pole and the 14th of his career.

“Welp, I’m glad for once we’re first and he’s not,” Truex joked. “I’ve been second to him a lot in qualifying, so it’s cool to – for us to get a pole. I think he was second, am I correct? Yeah, so it’s – we’ve been on the front row quite a few times together, so feels good that we’re the one in first this time, so it’s pretty cool.”

The lap came just after Busch, who led the first two rounds had taken the provisional pole.

“Hate it that we didn’t come out of here with our ninth pole of the season, but we’ll take it,” Busch said “It’s a front row starting spot, but hopefully it’ll be a good enough pit selection. Obviously, there’s no better position than number one. We’ve been on a really good roll here as of late with qualifying and everything like that for this year.”

It was the second pole of the season for Truex who won in Chicago and has already secured his spot in the next round, as has Busch, last week’s winner.

Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth both playoff drivers will line up third and fourth behind with rookie Daniel Suarez rolling off fifth.

“The No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.) and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) have been really good,” Larson said. “We have been right with them, so, we will work on race trim for tomorrow and hopefully be good on Sunday.”

While Truex and Busch have already punched their respective tickets to the Round of 12 four drivers are in danger of missing the cutoff.  All four qualified outside the top 12. Kurt Busch will start 13th Sunday, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 15th, Kasey Kahne 21st, and Austin Dillon 23rd.  The farthest back in the field however is Jamie McMurray after getting bumped out in the first round with under 30 seconds to go.  He went out for a second run as time was expiring, but failed to improve, he will start 26th.

“Actually, the balance was really similar on both runs,” McMurray said. “We were just a little bit loose on entry. And, I struggled to get the front to turn through the middle and then as soon as I’d get to the throttle, I couldn’t push the gas down because I would be loose. This is one of those places that requires a lot of throttle and I don’t know. I thought our balance was actually really good in practice. We didn’t change a whole lot. But the track slowed down and our car didn’t like that.”

Other playoff drivers outside the top 10: Brad Keselowski will start 16th, June’s winner Jimmie Johnson 17th.

“The track changed a little more than we adjusted for is really what it boils down to,” Johnson said.  “We felt like it was going to do that and made an effort at it and just didn’t go far enough.”

Up front, Denny Hamlin will start sixth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his final Dover race will start seventh, followed by Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott round out the top 12. Nine of the top 12 are playoff drivers, five of the top six cars are Toyota’s.

With 40 entries no team was sent home.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Apache Warrior 400 will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports network.

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