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.