Less than a week removed from a heartbreaking loss at Charlotte, Kyle Busch found a bit of redemption Friday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver put down a lap of 22.648, 158.653 halfway through the final five minutes Friday to score his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Dover International Speedway and his first of the season.
Busch led a Toyota contingent as the top four spots went to Toyota. Martin Truex Jr., who finished third behind Busch last week will start second missing out on the pole by .011 of a second.
“It feels great to beat that 78 (Martin Truex Jr.),” Busch said smiling. “Our team cars have been really fast this year, so those guys are really on it, but overall couldn’t be more excited about this Pedigree Camry and the guys and all the work that we’ve done all year long, but to sit on the pole here means a little bit for us – it gives us a really good pit selection for Sunday and, more importantly, just gives us the track position right off the bat. We know the 78 car is going to be fast – they always are – and one of the guys we’re going to have to race against.”
Busch’s JGR teammates Daniel Suarez and Matt Kenseth will start third and fourth just behind.
“I screwed up a little bit that first round and got loose going into two and aborted and then we had to make a re-run,” Truex said. “Maybe cost us half a tenth eventually on our tires, but I don’t think it really did anything, so all in all it was good. Just trying to get it all out the last round. This place is – you’ve got be aggressive. You’ve got to charge and just overcharged entry to three just a hair and lost a little time there, but all in all it was a good day for the Furniture Row Toyota and excited to be here in Dover. Hopefully, we can continue with the way we’ve been running here the last few years.”
Kyle Larson who led Friday’s sole practice session, and the first round of qualifying, will start fifth.
“We were really good in practice and I didn’t feel very good that first run,” Larson said. “But we still weren’t really fast and my front-end was just working way too good. Landing in the corner it was kind of getting me upset and the final round it got better, but our exit was too tight. I couldn’t carry a lot of speed off Turn 4. I ended up fifth, but would have liked to have been on the pole.”
Busch was a contender in last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but lost in the final laps on a fuel mileage gamble. His post-race interview was somewhat controversial as an obviously disappointed Busch tersely answered one question then dropped the mic and left the media center.
“Driving as hard as you do for 600 miles and passing the 78 car, I thought that was for the win,” Busch said. “Then watching the 48 car run out of fuel and then hearing the 3 was in front of us, you were hoping that he would run out for your own sake but they didn’t. There’s nothing to take away from his win but you know it’s a marquee event and a big one to win and I’ve won two of them, that would have been the third and that would have only left me with the Daytona 500.
“The other aspect I looked at was we won the All-Star race and we were going for the sweep at Charlotte,” he added. “So there was a lot of things riding on the line that meant a lot to me and that would have been special to me and I guess I should care less about those sort of things and not show that sort of emotion but all in all that’s what was on the line for us and we weren’t able to achieve so it was pretty disappointing.”
He was in a much better mood Friday after leading the second round of qualifying and winning the 20th pole of his career.
Kurt Busch will roll off sixth Sunday, Erik Jones seventh followed by Brad Keselowski, last week’s winner Austin Dillon, and Denny Hamlin 10th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were the final two drivers to advance to the final round and will start 11th and 12th respectively.
Joey Logano was the biggest name who struggled Friday. He failed to move out of Round 1 and will start 26th Sunday. With 39 cars for 40 spots no one was sent home.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism will get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. ET with live coverage on Fox Sports 1.