Kyle Larson scores his first pole of 2018 holding off Kevin Harvick at Dover

The driver who starts first will finish first; at least that’s what Kyle Larson is hoping. Larson was the first car out in Friday’s final five minutes of qualifying putting down a lap around the one-mile of concrete at Dover International Speedway of 22.770 seconds, 158.103 mph to win the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400.

“I felt like I nailed that lap pretty good.,” Larson said. “Everything from coming to the green to (Turns) 1 and 2 were really good. (Turns) 3 and 4 I maybe left a little bit out there. I got in there a little hot and up the track. I planned on kind of moving up the race track each round.”

Move up he did, as Larson ran near the wall in the third round to win his first pole of 2018, and the fifth of his career, all of which have been at different tracks.

Three-time 2018 Cup winner Kevin Harvick will line up on the front row followed by Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounding out the top five.

“They made the car better all three rounds,” Harvick said. “We ran our fastest lap at the end. I lost a lot of time in 1 and 2. I got myself hung a little higher and longer than I needed to finish the corner. Still a good lap for us and I’m looking forward to race runs.”

The first of three rounds was pretty sedate as the 38 car field waited until less then 10 minutes to go in the 15 minute round, which would be led by Kyle Busch.

“I thought we had a shot at the front row, but just didn’t quite have it all the way we needed it today, so overall the car was good,” Busch said. “Just kind of fighting a couple things all day that we just haven’t been able to get right and then the tire’s different than when we were here last time, so I feel like that’s some of it. We’ve just got to fine tune and figure that out.”

Larson led the second round, while Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman scored a rare feat; both ran identical not once, but twice with Newman getting the nod to advance due to points.

“Today is his lucky day,” Kahne said. “To be 24th, we’re still not talking about a very good position. But, I was really tight in the front end around the whole corners. It’s like my second run in practice. The first run in practice was the exact opposite. So, we went back to that and it turned really well and then right here it didn’t. So, we have some work to do.”

For Jimmie Johnson, in the midst of a career long 33 race winless streak, Friday brought little good news. The 11-time Dover winner failed to advance to the final round and will start 19th on Sunday.

Chase Elliott, who came within a few laps of winning here last fall, will start sixth, Daniel Suarez seventh, with Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top 12.

“We’ve always qualified good here,” said Larson whose best finish here is second twice. “I had yet to get a pole. I’ve raced well here but have yet to get a win. Maybe we’ll get both out of the way this weekend.”

With 38 entries for 40 spots no team was sent home.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. EST 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.