BROOKLYN, Mich.–Another race track, another track record.
With a blistering run at 203.695 mph Friday at Michigan International Speedway, Joey Logano edged Kurt Busch for the top starting spot in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, the 23rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season.
The Coors Light pole award was the sixth of Logano’s career, his first at Michigan, his first in a Ford and his first since moving to Penske Racing this season. His track record is the 13th posted in the Cup series this year, and it came at a track owned by Roger Penske from 1972 to 1999.
“When you come to Michigan, obviously there’s extra incentive to win here and get poles–for one, Ford being here and Penske also having their headquarters here,” Logano said. “Any time you can come here and get a pole for Roger, it’s huge.
“I think what you’re seeing here is we ran really good here in the spring, and you come back here in a short amount of time, and you’re able to use your notes you had from there. This is the second time we’ve come here as a team, and we were able to learn a lot from it.”
A third of the way through the qualifying session, the track record fell. Kurt Busch, the 15th of 44 drivers to make an attempt, covered the two-mile distance in 35.347 seconds (203.695 mph) to eclipse Marcos Ambrose’s mark of 203.241 mph, set in June 2012.
Busch’s tenure at the top of the chart was short-lived. Logano, the next driver out, topped him with a lap that threatened 204 mph before falling just short.
Busch felt he might have been a trifle too cautious entering Turn 3.
“The pace today was just quick,” Busch said. “I shot for a 35.35 (seconds) in my mind for a lap time, and then (I ran) 35.347. I thought it would be good enough for the pole, but Logano hit it perfect. If I had to say where we lost a little bit of speed was maybe my entry to Turn 3, just a little conservative, making sure I didn’t overdrive it.”
Busch will start from the front row for the sixth time this season. He won the pole at Darlington in May and now has five second-place qualifying efforts to his credit.
Series leader Jimmie Johnson qualified third at 203.470 mph, as the top three drivers broke Ambrose’s previous record. Mark Martin (203.218 mph) will start fourth, followed by Jeff Burton (203.114 mph). Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch claimed the sixth through 10th spots on the grid, respectively.
Ambrose’s 2012 record run came on brand new pavement and on softer tires than those in use at MIS since then. According to 17th-place qualifier Martin Truex Jr., the uptick in speed from Carl Edwards’ 202.452 mph pole run in June has a lot to do with refinements in NASCAR’s new Gen-6 race car.
“Definitely, the speed at the race track surprised me today,” Truex told the NASCAR Wire Service. “I know the setups are totally different than what we ran here as far as our group (Michael Waltrip Racing) goes–a lot different than what we ran here in the spring race. That wasn’t that long ago–June.
“Things are changing so fast in the garage. Week to week, I don’t think you really know who’s going to step up and find something new that’s really working. That’s exactly what we’re seeing here this weekend.”
Notes: Austin Dillon, in a relief role for injured Tony Stewart, qualified 27th, in the No. 14 Chevrolet… Scott Riggs failed to qualify for the 43-car field… Logano’s effort in time trials was the ninth fastest pole winning lap in series history.