Kurt Busch may be out of NASCAR’s Playoffs, but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is still making some noise. Busch put down a blistering lap of 200.915 miles hour per hour Friday day to win the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500.
The lap around the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway broke the old track record set by his boss Tony Stewart in 2014, and secured Busch the 22nd pole of his career. He also becomes only the fourth driver in NASCAR history to turn a lap over 200 mph average at a 1.5-mile track.
“The sensation of speed is unbelievable,” Busch said. “It is such a cool feeling to go through both ends of the race track which are very different. To go through turns three and four almost wide open and have that car literally feel like it gains speed through the corner, that is one of the best feelings. That is one thing I always tell people when they ask what the best part is about being a NASCAR driver. It is usually Friday in that first practice session jumping down into the corner at 200 mph. It is one of the best feelings in the world and we got the pole today.”
Denny Hamlin is among those four drivers as he ran a lap of 200.617 to hold the provisional pole, until Busch grabbed the top spot with under a minute to go in the final round.
“I thought it would definitely have a chance,” Hamlin said. “We improved with our time each round, and we were top five each round, as well. So I definitely thought once I ran it, it was going to be very close. Some of the guys that were up front, we dodged those bullets early in the third round, but the 41 (Kurt Busch) was the last one that I knew could give us trouble, and they got us right there off of Turn 4.”
Kevin Harvick, who led Round 1 will start third followed by Erik Jones who led Round 2 with the first of the 200 mph laps. Kyle Busch will start fifth.
One of seven drivers who never even took to the track for qualifying was Playoff driver Chase Elliott. He and six others including Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano, never made it out of inspection in time to take a lap; Elliott will start 34th Sunday.
“We’ll just have to play it by ear and see what happens,” Elliott said. “We had, I thought, a decent car today throughout race practice and thought it drove pretty good in qualifying trim. I was kind of excited about qualifying, and qualifying hasn’t been a really strong suit for me. But, I’m looking forward to Sunday and again, we know we’ve got to start in the back, so we’ll try to have a good practice tomorrow and get it driving good and go from there.”
All seven of the other Playoff contenders advanced to the final round and will start in the top 10.
Martin Truex Jr. will start seventh behind Daniel Suarez; Truex is followed by Playoff drivers Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top 10. Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also advanced and will start 11th and 12th respectively.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his final race as a fulltime Cup driver will start 17th at the track where he won his first Cup race in 2000.
With 40 entries for 40 spots, no team was sent home.
The pole for Busch comes at an opportune time; he has no contract in place for 2018. Friday night he said he had no updates on that situation but:
“Days like today help quite a bit.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 gets the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network.