Christopher Bell won the Busch Light Pole for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with a lap of 180.591 mph around the 2.66-mile oval on Saturday – a mere .075-mph faster than Chevrolet’s Kyle Larson – putting the NASCAR Cup Series championship contenders out front in the fifth Playoff race, second of this round.
It’s the series-best fourth pole of the season for Bell, 27, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – and his second at Talladega – matching his Spring pole position. The New Hampshire race winner has scored top five finishes in three of the four Playoff races, suffering a 34th-place finish last week at Texas.
At this stage in the Playoffs and sitting 11th in points (the Top-8 advance to the next round) Bell said earning the pole position is mostly a help in gaining invaluable stage points.
“You can go to the back to the front and the front to the back a handful of times before they pay points at lap 60,” Bell said. “I think winning the pole is a great testament to the team but really will have no effect on winning the race tomorrow.”
Bell’s JGR teammate and fellow championship contender Denny Hamlin will start third, alongside Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, the 2018 winner of this race. Almirola’s teammate Chase Briscoe and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain – both Playoff drivers – make up the third row. Chastain won at Talladega in April.
NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Noah Gragson, who is filling in for driver Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, qualified an impressive seventh. Bowman is sitting out this event after suffering concussion-like symptoms last Sunday in the Texas race. William Byron, will start ninth, the last Playoff contender among the Top-10 on the starting grid.
Defending race winner Bubba Wallace will start his No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota 27th on the 37-car grid.
On Tuesday, William Byron received that 25-point driver and 25-point team penalty for aggressive driving during a caution period in last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. And Friday at Talladega, Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team failed pre-race inspection twice – resulting in the ejection of car chief Tyler Jones and the loss of pit stall selection for Sunday’s race.
Both Kaulig Racing team cars – the No. 16 driven by Daniel Hemric and the No. 31 driven by Justin Haley – also failed pre-race inspection losing their respective car chiefs and the choice of a pit stall.