Kurt Busch will start from pole position in this Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion driver set a blistering lap in the final session of qualifying to take his twenty-second career-pole position whilst also setting a new track record at the Texas Speedway.
Busch’s lap was enough to pip Denny Hamlin‘s #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry to the front of the pack by just four-hundredths of a second. The lap was so tantalisingly close to breaking the 201mph barrier, clocking in at 200.915mph average after 26.877 seconds.
“Pretty neat to hear we were over 200 mph average speed for a lap time at a 1.5-mile track. It was really neat. The way today unfolded for us.” said Busch post-qualifying,
“I wanted to make sure we didn’t leave anything out on the track. It was a nice pole run. I am really happy for Tony Gibson. It is his birthday. And I am really happy for everyone on the 41 car.”
It was a strong qualifying for Stewart-Haas Racing, backing up his pole-sitting team-mate in the #41 was Kevin Harvick in the #4 Ford. Harvick was one of a number of drivers who were late rolling through pre-qualifying technical inspection. Thankfully for him and his hopes for the race on Sunday, he was able to get out in time in the first round to set a lap and advance through.
Rookies Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez both put in solid runs in qualifying to get into the final session. Jones put his #77 Furniture Row Racing Camry in fourth place alongside Harvick, with Suarez taking his #19 JGR Camry to sixth. Separating the pair will be Kyle Busch‘s #18; with last week’s race winner putting himself fifth on the grid.
Martin Truex Jr put his #78 Toyota in the seventh position ahead of three of his playoff rivals. Ryan Blaney was just behind Truex after taking his #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford to eighth place. Ryan had finished as the fastest driver in first practice earlier on in the day, but he didn’t quite have the pace to get pole position a few hours later.
Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski were the final two playoff contenders that made it into the final session of qualifying. The pair took ninth and tenth respectively, with Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr taking the final two positions in the final round. Jamie McMurray and Danica Patrick are the unfortunate two drivers who will start just outside of the top twelve. McMurray will line-up thirteenth, with Danica fourteenth.
Starting twenty-first will be the #27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, but it wasn’t Paul Menard behind the wheel. Menard was forced to miss qualifying and practice after he and his wife welcomed their second child earlier this week. Filling in for Menard was RCR’s NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Daniel Hemric. Daniel had a dramatic day even before substituting for Menard after having crashed heavily during XFINITY qualifying. Thankfully he was unhurt and was then able to jump into Menard’s #27 to take a superb twenty-first place grid spot in Cup series qualifying. He will hand the car back to Menard for Sunday’s race.
Only one of the eight playoff contenders failed to make it through to the final session. In fact, the #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott failed to even turn a lap. As mentioned earlier, a number of drivers were running late in technical inspection. Chase was one of seven drivers that were unable to run a lap due to repeated inspection failures. The result is a blow for Elliott, who after last week’s controversial incident with Denny Hamlin lies in a must-win situation if he wants to get to the championship four at Homestead-Miami. Starting at the rear will be a hindrance, but Elliott and the #24 team will be pushing all race on Sunday to try and accomplish the seemingly impossible.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – AAA Texas 500 – Qualifying top twelve:
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