By AMANDA VINCENT
Kyle Busch turned in a 26.014-second/138.387 mph at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday in the third of three rounds of qualifying to claim the pole for Sunday’s Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. It’s his first pole of the season but the third of his career at PIR. Friday’s pole also just so happens to bring Busch’s overall career-pole tally to that of his car number — No. 18.
“It was a good day,” Busch said. “Unloading off the truck, everything seemed to go real well. I wasn’t sure about our speed in race trim, but then hopped over to qualifying trim, and for as not as good of a feel that the car was, we had some good speed, so that was definitely a plus.”
Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top-three positions in qualifying, with Carl Edwards set to start alongside Busch in the front row on Sunday, while teammate Denny Hamlin starts third.
“I believe it’s a very unique and very special thing we have where everybody is pushing each other, motivating one another and also helping each other,” Edwards said. “Then on the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) side, they are intimately involved. It’s a really close relationship with our engines being built there. They’re in every meeting that I’m in at least, and they participate at a really high level.”
The JGR trio of Busch, Edwards and Hamlin also had the three fastest cars in round two of the qualifying session, with Hamlin posting a 26.079-second/138.042 mph laps, followed by Busch in second and Edwards in third. But in the first round, Busch’s brother, Kurt Busch, led the way with a 26.175-second/137.536 mph lap. In the opening round, the fastest JGR driver was Kyle Busch in sixth.
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson made his way through all three rounds of qualifying. He even posted the fifth-fastest lap in the final round. As a result, Johnson will be credited with a fifth-place start in Sunday’s race, but he’ll actually start in the back in a back-up car after wrecking his primary in his final qualifying run of the day when his steering wheel came off.
“About qualifying, the steering wheel came off. I know my interview was vague, but wanted to tell the team first. I’m thankful for soft walls,” Johnson tweeted (@JimmieJohnson) after the qualifying session.
Here is the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway:
Row 1 — Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 2 — Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet)
Row 3 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 4 — Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Martin Truex (No. 78 Toyota)
Row 5 — Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 6 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford)
Row 7 — Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 8 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Matt DiBenedetto (No. 83 Toyota), Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Casey Mears (No. 13 Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Row 14 — Landon Cassill (No. 38 Ford), Ty Dillon (No. 14 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — David Ragan (No. 23 Toyota), Brian Scott (No. 44 Ford)
Row 16 — Regan Smith (No. 7 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 34 Ford)
Row 17 — Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet), Cole Whitt (No. 98 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Josh Wise (No. 30 Chevrolet), Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet)
Row 20 — Joey Gase (No. 32 Ford)
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