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NASCAR Cup: Kurt Busch sets qualifying record for Texas pole

Kurt Busch wins the pole for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Kurt Busch wins the pole for the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kurt Busch made a 26.877-second/200.915 mph lap around Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth in the third of three rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying Friday evening to set a new track qualifying record and claim the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. It’s Busch’s first pole of 2017, but the second of his career at Texas.

“Yeah, that is pretty neat to hear we were over 200 mph average speed for a lap time at a 1.5-mile track,” Busch said. It was really neat, the way today unfolded for us. Right before I jumped in the car, I saw an old friend and he had his two sons with him, and they were in awe. They were on pit road, checking it all out for qualifying, and I winked at both of them and said it was going to be over 200 mph today. I was able to back it up, so now I feel impressed. It was a really neat day with the car’s runs through each of the three rounds. The last round, we have been struggling in round three with the heat cycles on the tires throughout the year. In the last round, they asked me if I wanted air pressure, wedge or track bar, and I said, ‘D, all of the above.’ We really loosened it up, because that is the difference between 12th or fourth of fifth. 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 (crew chief). It is his birthday. And I am really happy for everyone on the 41 car.”

Busch’s lap was the fastest qualifying lap, ever, in NASCAR at a 1.5-mile track.

Denny Hamlin qualified second to share the front row with Busch, and Kevin Harvick qualified third after posting the fastest lap in the opening round. Busch was second to his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate in round one.

“We have done a phenomenal job qualifying all year,” Harvick said. “I hadn’t been more nervous for one than this one, just because I feel like it will be a crucial track position game to dictate your strategy and get the stage points that you need that you need to be up front. They did a good job. I didn’t know if we were going to make it with all the inspection stuff going on. We came out at the last minue. Kurt did a great job getting the pole. We needed him to get the pole, not the 11 (Hamlin).”

Erik Jones was tops in the second round as the first driver to surpass the 200 mph mark in the three-round session with a 200.022 mph round-two lap. Five of the 12 drivers who advanced to the third round closed out the session with 200+ mph laps. Jones was fourth among those to claim a second-row spot on the starting grid next to Harvick.

Seven of the remaining eight playoff drivers qualified in the top-10. The only one who didn’t was Chase Elliott. Elliott was among six drivers who failed to make a qualifying attempt because of issues getting through pre-qualifying inspection. As a result, Elliott will start Sunday’s race from the 34th position.

“We’ll just have to play it by ear and see what happens,” Elliott said. “We had, I thought, a decent car today throughout race practice and thought it drove pretty good in qualifying trim. I was kind of excited about qualifying, and qualifying hasn’t been a really strong suit for me. But I’m looking forward to Sunday, and again, we know we’ve got to start in the back, so we’ll try to have a good practice tomorrow and get it driving good and go from there.”

Other drivers failing to make qualifying attempt, and therefore, starting the race 35th through 40th include Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie and Gray Gaulding.

“Yeah, we have a lot of work to do now,” Logano said. “AAA is our sponsor and they are sponsoring the race, and we want to have a good run for them and we still will; we just have a little bit of work cut out for us now. This is a place that is really no advantage to starting in the back. It is not like we get fresher tires. It is a pretty challenging place to pass, especially early in the race, and the track isn’t very wide, yet. The challenge is pretty big in front of us, but I have a team that is up for it. We will keep battling.”

Paul Menard will drop to the back for the start of Sunday’s race, because NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Daniel Hemric qualified his car while Menard is on a brief paternity leave. His wife gave birth to the couple’s second child Wednesday. Menard is expected to arrive at TMS in time to run the race Sunday.

Here’s a look at the complete starting grid for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:
Row 1 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 2 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota)
Row 3 — Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 4 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford)
Row 5 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 6 — Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 7 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford)
Row 8 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 10 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford)
Row 11 — Daniel Hemric (No. 27 Chevrolet — sub for Paul Menard), Landon Cassill (No. 34 Ford)
Row 12 — Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet), David Ragan (No. 38 Ford)
Row 13 — Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet)
Row 14 — Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford)
Row 15 — Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet), Joey Gase (No. 7 Chevrolet)
Row 16 — Ray Black Jr. (No. 51 Chevrolet), Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 33 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — David Starr (No. 66 Chevrolet), Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 19 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Reed Sorenson 9No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 20 — Corey LaJoie (No. 23 Toyota), Gray Gaulding (No. 83 Toyota)

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on November 4, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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