Qualifying rainout puts Kyle Busch on pole for first Chase race

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 12: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

JOLIET, IL – SEPTEMBER 12: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 12, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

JOLIET, Ill.—Persistent rain and cold weather that inhibited track drying at Chicagoland Speedway forced cancellation of Friday’s scheduled time trials for Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400, the first race in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

With the field ordered according to top speeds in Friday’s opening Sprint Cup practice session, Chase drivers Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards will start from the top three positions, respectively. Busch recorded a top average speed of 191.442 mph on his 21st and final practice lap in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, more than two miles-per-hour faster than Joey Logano’s 2013 track qualifying record of 189.414 mph.

Being the top car in practice also provided a boost of confidence to Busch, who has struggled in his last six races, finishing outside the top 35 four times. Matt Kenseth, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, will start fifth on Sunday, adding to the critical mass of the JGR organization.

“I think today was a little bit better practice session for myself and the 20 (Kenseth),” Busch said. “I talked to Matt, and he felt a little more positive about things. Matt jumped up there to the top of the board early, and we were able to do so late…

“It’s a good representation of where we feel like we want to be and where we should be, but, again, it’s early—first practice, and not everybody at the end of that practice was in qualifying trim, making qualifying runs… There, later in practice, speeds certainly got quicker.”

The qualifying rainout was bad news for the Team Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, two of the favorites in the Chase. Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, and Logano will start 25th and 28th, respectively, after posting lackluster practice speeds in the opening 90-minute session.

Other Chase drivers will start as follows: Jimmie Johnson, seventh; Jeff Gordon, eighth; Kevin Harvick, 12th; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 13th; Kurt Busch, 14th; AJ Allmendinger, 17th; Kasey Kahne, 19th; Greg Biffle, 20th; Aric Almirola, 23rd; and Denny Hamlin, 24th.

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