By AMANDA VINCENT
Aric Almirola will start on the pole for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Saturday night after posting a 14.946-second/128.382 mph in the second of two rounds of qualifying Friday.
“It absolutely feels good,” Almirola said. “Man, what a ride to rip around here in less than 15 seconds. It’s pretty crazy how fast these cars are at this race track, but I’m just proud of my team, proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. They brought me a really fast BlueOval City Ford Mustang. We were good in race trim and obviously had a lot of speed in qualifying trim, so now we’ve got to go do it for 500 laps tomorrow night.”
Almirola will share the front row with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe. Briscoe was second in round two of qualifying after leading round one. Briscoe’s 14.944-second/128.399 mph lap among group B drivers in the opening round was fastest among all drivers across both groups. It was the only lap of the round under 15 seconds and over 128 mph.
Kyle Larson led group A in the opening round with a 15.063-second/127.385 mph lap. In round two, Larson wound up qualifying fifth.
Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman qualified third, and Denny Hamlin fourth.
Ford claimed six of the top-10 starting spots for Saturday nights race, four of them advancing to round two out of group B in the first round. Aside from Almirola and Briscoe, Ryan Blaney qualified sixth. Almirola and Briscoe’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick was seventh, and Blaney’s Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric qualified ninth.
Almirola was one of two non-playoff drivers who qualified in the top-10 at Bristol. Brad Keselowski was the second non-playoff driver and sixth Ford driver in qualifying in 10th.
Also qualifying in the top-10 was Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell in eighth.