Kyle Busch started his weekend out the same as his last weekend. Now he just has to hope it ends better. Busch put down a lap of 50.237, 179.180 mph Friday to take the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Pocono 400.
It was the second consecutive pole for Busch who won the top spot last Friday at Dover. It was his third Pocono pole and the 21st of his career. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was fastest in round 2 and followed that up with a faster lap with just over 1:30 left in the final round.
While he started on pole last week at Dover, Busch suffered issues including a tire that came off after a pit stop. He finished Dover 16th. This week, NASCAR suspended his crew chief Adam Stevens for four races for the tire infraction.
“I think it just shows the way Adam Stevens (crew chief) is able to prepare his team,” Busch said. “And his cars and the work that goes on back at the shop with the guys. This whole team is lined up with good personnel and Adam chooses all that and Joe (Gibbs, owner) gives us all the right tools in order to be successful. So far, so good and to come out here gives us the number one pit selection and gives us the track position to start, but we have to keep it.”
“I think it was human error, an accident,” Busch said of his Dover incident. “The gun didn’t get flipped from reverse to forward and it’s just part of it. Human error, I make mistakes all the time and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) makes mistakes all the time. We just have to live through it. That’s a big penalty and it’s unfortunate that we have to live through it. The way the rule was written, it’s intent of the rule wasn’t quite what transpired there, but we live and die by the rule book I guess so the consequences are there.”
Martin Truex Jr. will roll off second followed by Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch in fifth with his best start of the year.
Brad Keselowski will start sixth, with Kyle Larson who led Friday’s lone practice session and the first round of qualifying starting seventh.
Jamie McMurray starts eighth, with Joey Logano and Ryan Newman rounding out the top 10.
Hendrick Motorsports struggled in qualifying with none of their four cars advancing to the final round. Jimmie Johnson rolls of 19th, Chase Elliott 25th, Kasey Kahne 26th with Dale Earnhardt Jr. grabbing 28th. Earnhardt was happy despite his qualifying effort; in Friday’s practice Earnhardt’s crew elected to change an engine meaning no matter which qualifying spot he earned he will start last Sunday. After his lap in the first round in qualifying, Earnhardt like the race setup on his Chevrolet.
“If there is a race track you’ve got to start in the back and not have a very good pit selection this is the one to do that at,” Earnhardt said. “Since we are required to start on the tires we qualify on, we really just planned on making one lap. We went out there and we had our car set-up like we are going to try to start tomorrow in race trim. We just went out there and made one single lap to really kind of get a directional idea of where we want to go tomorrow. It allowed us to take pictures of our car and know where the travels and everything is. That way we don’t put anymore laps on our tires than we have to star on Sunday. NASCAR prefers that you make one attempt, so that is what we did. We didn’t want to make any additional laps because we have to start at the rear on those tires and we would rather have the advantage of a little bit fresher tires than everybody else. I was thrilled with the lap that we made out there in race trim.”
Michael McDowell racing for the low budget Levine Family Racing, played the underdog Friday advancing to the final round for the first time this season and securing 11th, his best starting spot since Talladega where he started 6th in 2014.
Kevin Harvick, normally a threat for any pole, advanced to the final round but was forced to abort his first run. He went back out with just over one minute to go but could only manage a lap good enough for 12th.
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace was impressive in his Cup debut. In relief of the injured Aric Almirola in the Richard Petty Motorsports 43 Ford, Wallace made the second round of qualifying and will start 16th Sunday.
“I honestly shocked myself with the speed that I was able to deliver to the plate,” Wallace said. “I may have shocked the team. I don’t know if they’ll tell me that. I may have shocked a couple people watching too. That’s fine. As long as I shocked myself that’s a good thing.”
With 39 entries, no one was sent home. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Pocono 400 will get the green flag just after 3:00 p.m. Sunday with live coverage on Fox Sports 1.