Kyle Busch spoils the party with pole winning run at Atlanta

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 23: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Snickers Almond Toyota, poses with the Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23, 2018 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Ryan Newman came within one lap of making history Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Newman had the provisional pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500.  The pole would have broken a tie with Buddy Baker and put Newman in sole possession of 8 poles at Atlanta.

Kyle Busch would have none of that however. Busch put down a lap of 30.024, 187.652 with less than a minute to go in the final five minutes of knockout qualifying to secure the 28th pole of his career, and his first official pole at Atlanta in his 20th start.

“We seemed to be getting beat on every single run through (turns) 1 and 2,” Busch said. “But there, during that final run, I felt we got through 1 and 2 better and I was just like don’t screw up 3 and 4. I felt like 3 and 4 were pretty normal. We were really good through the 3 and 4 end the previous round. I didn’t want to screw that up with some of the adjustments we were making to get this Snickers Almond Camry faster than it was.”

The pole run was .0233 seconds faster than Newman’s lap of 30.062, 184.419 mph and relegates him to the second place starting spot.

“Obviously, the Camaro is strong out of the box,” Newman said. “Wish we could have got that pole for them as well as us.  Just in general look forward to this weekend.  I think the drivers fought really hard last year to make sure this place didn’t get repaved and I think we are going to put up the same battle again this year.”

Kevin Harvick, who led the second round will start third, Daniel Suarez fourth with Brad Keselowski, who led round 1 starting fifth.

“That’s decent,” Keselowski defending race winner said.  “We won here from fifth last year, so we’re gonna do it again.  I felt like I got all I could get, but we just need to find a bit more.  We’re real close.”

Notably missing among the field was reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. While the rest of the 35 cars passed NASCAR’s new optical scanning station, the No. 78 team failed three times. Facing the possible ejection of crew chief Cole Pearn If they failed a fourth time Friday night, the team elected to skip qualifying. They will start last Sunday but have three more chances to pass the OSS Saturday.

“NASCAR’s new inspection process is just that … new,” said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “The tolerances are very tight, within thousandths of an inch. It’s difficult to push the limits where you feel you need to and still be within the tolerances of the new system. One thing we won’t do is leave anything on the table and expect to get poles and wins. We will always push for the maximum.”

Among the top 12 were the four cars of Joe Gibbs Racing and of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start sixth with Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones rounding out the top 10. Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin, who did not turn a lap in the final round, will start 11th and 12th respectively.

The four-car team of Hendrick Motorsports failed to advance to the third round, with Daytona 500 polesitter Alex Bowman securing the best starting spot for the team 18th.  Other notables include Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon who starts 25th and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace who rolls off 19th.

With 36 cars entered, the smallest field since 1996, no teams were sent home.  The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500 at Atlanta gets the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on Fox.

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.