Chris Buescher grabs pole after incident filled practice sessions

DOVER, DELAWARE - APRIL 30: Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, and crew celebrate after winning the pole award for qualifying for the DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne at Dover Motor Speedway on April 30, 2022 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Chris Buescher earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series pole position at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway Saturday and will lead the field to green in Sunday’s DuraMAX Drydene 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford turned a fast lap of 159.207 mph around the concrete Monster Mile – the second of the 10 final qualifiers to go in the final session. The 29-year old Texan’s time was .057-second faster than Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

This is Buescher’s first pole position in 233 NASCAR Cup Series race starts.

“That’s just awesome right there,’’ a smiling Buescher said after watching the final session on pit road.

“That was a good effort during practice. [His teammate] Brad [Keselowski] went out there and put down some really great laps and came over and saw some things, relayed it and everyone did a good job working on this thing and got our Fastenal Mustang on the front row so that’s a heckuva start.

“Good to do that here in Dover. I love this place. It’s a ride. We’re flying around here.’’

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will start from the second row, followed by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and defending race winner, Hendrick’s Alex Bowman.

Last week’s Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway race winner Ross Chastain – fastest in the opening round of time trails – will start seventh alongside Daniel Suarez. Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch will round out the Top-10 starters in a pair of Toyotas.

Austin Cindric was fastest in practice but did not advance to the final qualifying round. He was the fastest rookie qualifier and will start the No. 2 Team Penske Ford from 12th position.

Kevin Harvick, one of three three-time Dover race winners, was 11th fastest in qualifying just missing the final round. It will be his highest starting position in the last three races. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is looking to score his first win since Sept. 19, 2020 (at Bristol, Tenn.) – 53 races ago. He won at Dover, Del. that same year.

Four drivers did not make NASCAR Cup Series qualifying laps on Saturday. William Byron, rookies Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton and Josh Bilicki all had incidents during practice and will go to back-up cars for the race.

Byron, a two-race winner in 2022, had an incident in the opening minutes of his practice session and hit the wall hard enough that his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team immediately knew it would need to prepare a back-up car. He will start 33rd among the 36 cars.

“Just hate it for our guys more than anything,’’ said Byron, who is ranked third in the championship standings.

“Have to pull out a back-up car obviously. The primary was probably going to be really fast and I know our back-up car can be just as fast and we can still go and try to win on Sunday. But just a little bit over-confident on my end (in the accident).’’

Gilliland and Bilicki made contact with the wall early in the opening practice. Byron and Burton had their trouble in the second practice session. Tyler Reddick, spun twice in that session but did not need to go to a second car. He will start the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing 26th.

Starting Lineup


Photos: NASCAR at Dover Motor Speedway Saturday Apr. 30, 2022