It took a bit of patience on the part of 39 drivers Friday, but at the end of three rounds of knockout qualifying Kyle Busch reigned supreme besting his brother Kurt with 30 seconds to go to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch’s lap of 14.895 seconds translated to 128.365 and won him his second pole of the season and the 29th of his career.
“He always told everybody, ‘If you think I’m good, wait for my younger brother,’ so I’m glad I’m living up to those expectations,” Kyle joked. “Just a little bit, but we’re doing alright here this weekend. I have to give it to my guys, they do an awesome job and the preparation and everything that we’ve got going on right now is great for our Skittles Camry.”
All three rounds were belonged to the Busch brothers as Kyle won the first round and older brother Kurt the second.
“That was super-close, “Kurt said. “The guys really found the right adjustments and the way that you have to hit it just right at Bristol because the lap times are below 15 seconds any little miss you know that you’re not gonna get the pole because there’s no time to gain it back. It’s real similar to like drag racing. It’s a quarter-mile long and any time you have one little slip you don’t have time to gain it back, except here it’s just two quarter-miles. It’s a half-mile and I just slipped up a little bit in turn one and that was all that Kyle needed to get by us.”
All three rounds were quiet for nearly half of each session. Denny Hamlin learned the reason why when in the first round he was one of the first drivers to take a lap with 6 minutes to go. He led the session briefly, but much of the rest of the field waited until just two minutes to go. Hamlin fell to outside the top 24 and will start 25th Sunday.
“The track was pretty treacherous there at the beginning and then we just didn’t get back out on the race track in time to run another run,” Hamlin said. “The car was much better when I went back out, we had a ton of speed. We ran a 30 there coming off pit road. With the way they park you on the backstretch, you have to run just a dead lap and we just didn’t have time for that.”
The second round was also mainly silent until just over two minutes to go.
In the final round no one when out until just over 1:35 to go; Busch put down his pole winning lap with just over 30 seconds to go.
Brad Keselowski grabbed third as time expired putting Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in fourth, and Ryan Blaney who led the lone practice session earlier in the day to fifth.
Kyle Larson was sixth, Paul Menard seventh with Alex Bowman, Michael McDowell and Joey Logano rounding out the top 10.
Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones were the final two to advance to the final round and will start 11th and 12th respectively.
Among those not advancing to the final round: Jimmie Johnson will start 17th and Martin Truex Jr. 26th.
Kevin Harvick who crashed in practice and went to a backup car, elected not to qualify knowing they will start in the back Sunday. Johnson, also later learned his team had discovered a cut tire on his No. 48 Chevrolet. Because of the necessary tire change, Johnson also will start from the back of the field.
“Some bad luck/traffic in round 2 of qualifying has us starting 17th,” Johnson posted on Twitter. “…and then the amazing news of a cut left front tire means we are now starting last.”
Some bad luck/traffic in round 2 of qualifying has us starting 17th… and then the amazing news of a cut left front tire means we are now starting last.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) April 13, 2018
Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 is scheduled to get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday.
“It’s been awhile since Kurt’s (Busch) won here and I’m sure he’s hungry, he might be more hungry than I am if that’s possible,” Kyle said. “Just by looking at it, you would think about it that way. I would certainly like to give the opportunity to go out there and race him only for the win and have it be a Busch brothers one-two all day long, but I know there’s going to be plenty of other competitors that will have something to say about that.”