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NASCAR Cup: Kyle Busch notches first Atlanta pole

Kyle Busch celebrates his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 23, 2018 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Kyle Busch celebrates his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 23, 2018 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kyle Busch claimed his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday with a 30.024-second/184.652 mph lap in the third of three rounds of qualifying to start Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 first.

Toyota driver Busch will share the front row with Chevrolet driver Ryan Newman. Ford’s Kevin Harvick qualified third to give all three manufacturers representation in the top-three positions on the starting grid.

“They haven’t changed it [AMS racing surface] for the last 20 years,” Newman said. ”I just enjoy the race track. We’ve got a good race car with our Liberty National Life Insurance Chevrolet. Obviously, the Camaro is strong out of the box, but wish we could have got that pole for them as well as us. Just in general, look forward to this weekend. I think the drivers fought really hard last year to make sure this place didn’t get repaved, and I think we are going to put up the same battle again this year.”

Harvick was first out in each round of qualifying and posted the second and fastest speeds, respectively, in rounds one and two. In the opening round, Brad Keselowski’s 29.737-second/186.434 mph lap in the opening round was the fastest lap, overall, of the three-round session. Harvick’s second-round leading lap clocked in at 30.043 seconds/184.535 mph,

Only 36 cars entered the Atlanta race, four shy of a 40-car full field. Reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. and Harrison Rhodes didn’t make qualifying laps, and as a result, will start in the 18th and final row Sunday. Truex’s team had trouble getting the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota through the optical scanning station, failing three times. After the third failure, car chief Blake Harris was ejected from the garage area and will be unavailable on Sunday. If the team had made another attempt to get the car through inspection with the goal of getting to make a qualifying lap but failed a fourth time, crew chief Cole Pearn would’ve been ejected.

“NASCAR’s new inspection process is just that — new,” Furniture Row Racing President Joe Garone said. “The tolerances are very tight, within thousandths of an inch. It’s difficult to push the limits where you feel you need to and still be within the tolerances of the new system. One thing we won’t do is leave anything on the table and expect to get poles and wins. We will always push for the maximum.”

Chris Buescher, after advancing to round two, didn’t make a second-round attempt, and as a result, will start 24th. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin and Darrell Wallace Jr. waited until the last possible second to post a lap in the second round. Wallace’s lap of record wasn’t fast enough to advance to the final round, but Hamlin’s was, knocking Jamie McMurray out of the top-12 in the final second of the second round.

After a late qualifying lap to advance to the final round, Hamlin sat on that lap time, not making a third-round lap, instead, opting to start the race 12th. Aric Almirola will start 11th after, like Hamlin, not making a lap in the final round.

All four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas qualified in the top-12. Joining pole-sitter Busch and 12th-place starter Hamlin in the top-12 were Daniel Suarez in fourth and Erik Jones in 10th.

Here’s a look at the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
Row 1 — Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 2 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 3 — Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Ricky Stenhouse (No. 17 Ford)
Row 4 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 5 — Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford), Erik Jones (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 6 — Aric Almirola (No. 43 Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 7 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Row 8 — Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 9 — Michael McDowell (No. 34 Ford), Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Darrell Wallace Jr. (No. 43 Chevrolet), Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — William Byron (No. 24 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford)
Row 14 — Chase Elliott (No. 9 Chevrolet), Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — David Ragan (No. 38 Ford), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford)
Row 16 — Gray Gaulding (No. 23 Toyota), Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 00 Chevrolet), Ross Chastain (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Harrison Rhodes (No. 51 Chevrolet)

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Posted by on February 24, 2018. 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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