Kyle Busch will start on pole position for this Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway; the opening round of the 2017 Cup series playoffs. It was a crushing performance by the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing squad, as they led every round of qualifying before going on to take the pole.
Busch’s advantage was sizable over the rest of the field. His pole lap of 28.729 seconds was the only sub-29 second lap of the session. Team-mate Denny Hamlin was three-tenths of a second further back. Kyle’s twenty-sixth NASCAR Cup Series pole position – his first ever at Chicagoland – comes in the midst of a spat with long-time rival Brad Keselowski, who claimed on Twitter that Toyota had too much an advantage over Ford and Chevrolet. Kyle, as well as numerous other Toyota drivers, responded stating otherwise, but the #18 drivers performance today will only fuel the fire for some.
When asked about where he found his impressive speed to take pole position, Kyle said,“It’s because I’m in a Toyota, that’s why right?”
“Just great adjustments there because we were kind of free there the first couple of runs and were trying to get the balance there and the last run our balance was way better and we were able to attack it and get the most out of it. That’s all she had. Certainly great job by all these guys on this Skittles Sweet Heat Camry.”
Toyota drivers locked out the first three positions in qualifying, with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr taking second and third place respectively. Hamlin was left puzzled as to how his team-mate was so far ahead of him:
“It wasn’t because his car was that much faster,” Hamlin said, “He must have done something inside the car better than I did, so I’ll have to look at the data and see what line he took and how much throttle he used, because I know there’s not three-tenths between our cars, for sure.”
Kevin Harvick was the first non-Toyota driver on the scoreboard after putting his #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion in fourth place. The aforementioned Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five in his #2 Team Penske Ford.
Last weeks race winner at Richmond, Kyle Larson, qualified in sixth place in the #42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, with Joey Logano being the highest placed driver not in the playoffs after putting his #22 Penske Ford in seventh place. Playoff drivers continued to complete the top ten, with Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Matt Kenseth taking positions eight through ten.
Clint Bowyer took eleventh in the #14 Stewart-Haas Ford, with Ryan Blaney the last driver to make it through to the final round of qualifying in twelfth place for Wood Brothers Racing. The #21 driver was forced to make two runs in round two after a spin for Erik Jones in the #77 brought out a red flag during one of Blaney’s runs. This meant that Ryan had no gas and a tyre disadvantage, making a third-round run impossible. Daniel Suarez just missed out on making it through to the final round with his three Joe Gibbs Racing team-mates, with the rookie qualifying in thirteenth place.
Six of the ten playoff contenders failed to make it through to the final round of qualifying. Jimmie Johnson put his #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in fourteenth place ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr‘s #17 Roush Fenway Ford. Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch were right behind in positions fifteen and sixteen. The final two playoff contenders, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne, qualified in nineteenth and twenty-fifth respectively.
Two further practice sessions separate the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field from Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Tales of the Turtles 400 – Qualifying Top Twelve:
[table id=2471 /]
(P) = Playoff driver
* – Ryan Blaney failed to run a lap in the final session of qualifying. Time shown is his run from the second session.