Erik Jones scores first career NASCAR Cup pole winning top spot at Bristol

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 18: Erik Jones, driver of the #77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 18, 2017 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Rookie Erik Jones scored a career first Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway winning the pole for Saturday nights Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Night Race.

Jones lap of 14.981 seconds, 127.444 mph around the half mile track came with just over two minutes to go in the third and final round and comes a week after his career best finish of third at Michigan International Speedway.

“I wasn’t sure if that lap was going to hold out,” Jones said. “But I knew it was a pretty good lap time for us. I knew it was all I had so just cool to be coming off a good week at Michigan and then coming back here, started off right. Get the pole at Bristol nonetheless. Pretty cool place to get the first Cup pole.”

Kyle Larson, who was vocal about his struggles in Friday’s earlier practice will line up on the front in second. He admitted that he was trying to find speed up high on the track, something he plans to do Saturday night.

“I wish I could have gone just a few thousandths faster, but ended up second,” Larson said. “So, not bad. I really wanted that pole there just because I was doing something different than everybody, but we’ll start on the front row tomorrow and hopefully be there at the end.”

Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth round out the top five.

While Jones was celebrating for many top names, it was a day of frustration. Chief among them was Kyle Busch. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is hoping for his second weekend sweep and got off on the right foot Wednesday winning the truck race. Friday, he put down the fastest lap of the first qualifying round and of the weekend, but stumbled in the second round nearly spinning twice and failed to advance to the final round. He will start 18th Saturday night.

Two-time Bristol winner Jimmie Johnson will start 21st, but it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who struggled the most among the Hendrick Motorsports drivers; he failed to make it out of the first round and will start his final race as a full time Cup driver in 31st.

Martin Truex Jr. will roll off sixth, Denny Hamlin who led the second session will start seventh followed by Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney in the top ten.  Jamie McMurray and Daniel Suarez will start 11th and 12th respectively as the final two cars to advance to the final round.

Timmy Hill was the only driver who failed to make the field.

The Monster Energy Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will get the green flag just after 7:30 Saturday night with live coverage on NBC.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.