KYLE BUSCH CLAIMS FIRST ATLANTA CUP SERIES POLE
HAMPTON, Ga. (Feb. 23, 2018) – Kyle Busch claimed his first official pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with a speed of 184.652 mph in Friday’s qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Busch jumped in at the last moment to lay down the fastest lap in 30.024 seconds.
“The pole run was really good,” Busch said. “Atlanta is a tough place. It’s certainly not easy. You have to make sure you bide your time a little bit with the tires and everything. Going through three rounds of qualifying, we knew that would be a challenge, but it seemed like we got it right there on that last one.”
Busch displaced Ryan Newman, who was in position to break his tie with the legendary Buddy Baker for most poles at AMS (eight). Newman went around in 30.062 seconds — .038 seconds slower than Busch.
“That was rough, but he earned it obviously,” Newman said.
Busch was in line for the pole at Atlanta in 2016, but was later failed post-qualifying inspection and his time was disallowed.
“Certainly that was one that we didn’t want to see happen that day,” said Busch, who has earned 28 Cup poles in his career. “Qualifying up front, I feel like at Atlanta is important because it’s so hard on tires.
“Coming from behind is a lot harder to do than protecting the position that you’ve already gained. So today being able to get the pole is good.”
Kevin Harvick, who has led more laps at this track than anyone else in the last three years, and Daniel Suarez are on the second row for Sunday’s race.Last year’s winner Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones round out the top 10.
Defending series champion Martin Truex’ No. 78 failed pre-qualifying inspection three times and opted not to try to get it through the fourth time. With three failures, NASCAR will suspend car chief Blake Harris and the team will have a 30-minute practice hold. A fourth failure would have resulted in a loss of 10 series points.
Truex will start 35th.
Jimmie Johnson, who has more wins at AMS than any other active driver (five), had inspection issues of his own but was only a little late to qualifying. Johnson didn’t make it past the second round of knock-out qualifying and will start 22nd. But Johnson has proved he doesn’t need to be upfront to win. He won in 2015 after starting 37th and then again in 2016, his fifth checkered flag at the 1.54-mile oval, starting 19th.
Daytona 500 champ Austin Dillon and Dawsonville’s Chase Elliott both missed the second round of qualifying. The Chevy drivers will start 25th and 27th, respectively.
“We’re way off,” Elliott said. “We’ll go to work tonight though.”