Kyle Larson runs fastest qualifying lap of 2017 in route to pole at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cars 3/Target Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the pole award for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

It takes guts. To enter Turn 1 at Michigan International Speedway at 215-216, sometimes as fast as 218 miles per hour takes commitment. Kyle Larson had that commitment Friday entering the turn at 217 mph and averaging a lap of 35.616 seconds, 202.156 miles per hour as time expired in the final round to win the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Firekeepers Casino 400.

“We made some good adjustments there for that final round,” Larson, who led Friday’s lone practice session, said. “I was pretty good in the first round and a little bit tight in the second round. They went a step further on freeing it up for the final round and the Cars 3 Chevy drove good. I could tell by the rpm and the engine it was going to be a pretty good lap:

It was Larson’s second pole win of the season (his first came at California), the third of his Cup career and his first at Michigan, and the fastest qualifying lap in the 2017 NASCAR season. Larson also won the here last fall, the last time NASCAR visited.

“I was happy about that to get the pole after winning here last year,” Larson said. “So, hopefully we can keep it going. So far it’s been a really good weekend leading in practice and then getting the quick time here. So, yeah; it’s an exciting weekend and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Martin Truex Jr. was a bridesmaid once again. For the third week in a row, he held the provisional pole briefly, only to be relegated to second by a Kyle. Unlike the last two weeks when that Kyle was a Busch, this week he’ll start on the front row beside Larson.

“Little bit disappointed there, but Kyle (Larson) went out late and got us, so it was a good day,” Truex said. “Staying in qualifying trim all day just seems to suit us – we stay focused on one thing and we can get it right and tomorrow we’ll switch over and do race stuff, so looking forward to it. Love racing here at Michigan and hopefully have a good weekend.”

Clint Bowyer had a good final round taking his season best third starting spot. Kyle Busch who won the last two poles rolls off fourth, with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin starting fifth.

“Everybody is chasing those two guys (Larson & Truex) to be up front,” Bowyer said. “They just don’t wiggle around as much as the other ones. So until you can get yours to not wiggle around you will probably be following them in these qualifying sessions

Last week’s first-time winner Ryan Blaney starts sixth, defending race winner Joey Logano seventh, Larson’s teammate Jamie McMurray eighth with Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott rounding out the top 10. Kevin Harvick, who led the first two rounds, couldn’t back that up but did make it to the final round and starts 11th, while Michigan native Brad Keselowski the final of 12 cars to make it to the final round.

“We just got really loose there in the last round,” Harvick said. “We were really good the first two but something changed. I like the speed in race trim. We have some work to do for Sunday.”

Other notables: Jimmie Johnson starts 13th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17th and Darrell Wallace in his second Cup start for Richard Petty Motorsports starts 27th.

Ty Dillon’s 24th spot qualifying effort was disallowed for unapproved body modifications during the session, he will start from the rear of the field Sunday.

With 37 entries for 40 spots, no car was sent home. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Firekeeper Casino 400 gets the green flag just after 3:00 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on Fox Sports 1.

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.