Kurt Busch avoids bumps to win pole at Pocono

Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch won his 19th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Award on Friday at Pocono Raceway. The No. 47 Chevrolet turned a lap of 177.599 mph around the 2.5-mile course in 50.676 seconds.

Carl Edwards finished second with a speed of 177.550 mph, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon and Pocono first practice leader Kevin Harvick to round out the top five.

Denny Hamlin spun out in Round 3’s final minute, bringing out a red flag with 39 seconds left in the session. As a result, only seven drivers could finish the final round, as the red flag ended the session.

Sprint Cup Series action continues Saturday at 9 a.m. ET for practice (FOX Sports 1).

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER

“Wow, what a day, today. I feel like there are six corners out there as hard as I was working; corner entry, corner exit. The car was just off-balance, especially with the new bumps in Turn 2. And then we got way loose. I think we were 30th in practice. And we had to drop back and punt. Daniel Knost, his set-up, is what we reverted to from last year when we qualified outside pole. So, that’s what it’s all about, team communication and working hard together as a group. So, that’s to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing to be a pole-sitter today. The circumstances though, I’d like to see everybody finish their lap. I always thought they should freeze the time when somebody spins. That way everybody still gets to get back out there and make their lap. We’re on the pole. Thanks to Haas Automation, Chevrolet, State Water Heaters; great pole position. We’ll take it. We worked hard for it today. I’m very surprised and happy about the teamwork."

WHAT DO YOU FOCUS ON MOST TOMORROW DURING PRACTICE?

“Ignoring the bumps. I mean the bumps, there’s grocery store parking lots around the country that are jealous of those three bumps that developed. It’s a beautiful tunnel entryway on the underside. The topside struggles with these bumps now. If I could ignore those and get our car dialed-in in (Turns) 1 and 3, then we’ll be a better car."

MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/VISSER PRECISION CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 3RD

“It was a good day for us. Honestly just right off the trailer we have had a good car all day long. Hats off to the guys again for bringing a great racecar. Really just tweaked on it little things here and there throughout practice and then again throughout the qualifying session made good gains each and every run. We thought our third run was a pretty good lap. Obviously really close to the first two guys, but missed it just a little bit. I’m starting to get this qualifying thing figured out and that is something that is definitely going to help us race better and get better pit stalls. I’m looking forward to Sunday."

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA/PENN STATE CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 4TH

ON THE QUALIFYING SESSION ENDING EARLY:
“That is unfortunate. You want to see everybody get a chance at it. But that is what I love so much about this format. It creates drama in so many different ways. You are playing the cloud, the track conditions, the time and you don’t know if somebody is going to have an issue and end the session. I’m real proud of our Axalta/Penn State team. We showed how fast the car was in practice as well as backed it up in qualifying. Didn’t have our best session in session two, I missed Turn 1 a little bit, but backed it up and put down a good lap in session three. We are going to start fourth, real happy with that and real happy that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) chose to go out early there."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 BUDWEISER/JIMMY JOHN’S CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 5TH

YOU WERE FASTEST THE FIRST TWO SESSIONS, BUT MISSED IT THERE AT THE END. DO YOU THINK YOU WERE ONE ADJUSTMENT AWAY FROM WINNING THE POLE?
“We just got loose in the last session. We have been struggling a little bit in the last sessions here trying to decide exactly what we want to do for balance. Still really proud the car is really fast and just go from there."

AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 DOW CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 6TH

ONE OF THE BEST QUALIFYING EFFORTS OF THE SEASON:
“I am really proud. I wanted a little bit more there at the end. I thought we were going to have a shot at the pole. Those guys just never really slowed up. Our Dow Chevy has been good all weekend long. Hopefully, we can just keep it up and let it overlay to the race and have a good finish on Sunday."

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 9TH

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT HAPPENED? (QUALIFYING ENDED EARLY DUE TO AN ON TRACK ACCIDENT AND FIVE OF THE TOP 12 CARS DID NOT MAKE A FINAL QUALIFYING RUN)

“Hell that is the best I’ve qualified and I didn’t even make a lap. It is a really bizarre set of circumstances. I guess it is part of the way things work with this qualifying. It’s just unfortunate to the guys that were on the track. But as long as NASCAR is consistent through all three series then we will take our medicine and just deal with it. But again we are ninth. That is the best we have been in a while."


THERE IS A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING. DO YOU FEEL LIKE IF YOU HAD A CHANCE TO GO OUT, YOU WOULD HAVE BETTERED A NINTH PLACE START ON SUNDAY?

“I’m stoked with ninth the way qualifying has been going for us lately. So, we’ll take that, without even making a lap. The car is fast. The car has been really good. I honestly think we had something for the pole today. It’s one of those things. It’s I guess what happens if you’re trying to cool your car down and go out at the end of the session. The weird thing is on the clock, it still says 39 seconds. So, I’m highly confused on many levels. But, we’re starting the best we have in a long time. So, I’ll take whatever it is in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet. And a big shout out to Lowe’s for giving me this chance to put the foundation on the car."

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 GRAINGER CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 13TH

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE TO GET THE CAR INTO THE FINAL ROUND OF QUALIFYING?
“I mean we were two thousandths of a second off, so yeah we were close. That is all it takes to be off just a little bit here to make it to that next round. It was unfortunate we only got one shot at it. I wish we could have had two shots with our Grainger Chevrolet, but we will have plenty of shots at it Sunday. Just need to make sure we make it drive well tomorrow."

KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 15TH

HOW DID IT FEEL OVER THE BUMPS IN THE TUNNEL TURN IN QUALIFYING?

“I wasn’t airborne. The tires were still on the ground. It’s definitely rough in the Tunnel Turn. They must have had a hard winter here or something because it’s gotten really rough. It’s kind of cool, too, because it adds character to the track and opens up some passing for us there. Qualifying didn’t go like we wanted it to. But the Target Chevy has had okay speed; we’ve just got to work on it some more tomorrow for race trim and hope we have a good race on Sunday.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 20TH

ON YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT, WHAT DID YOU FIGHT THE MOST?

“I chopped the entrance to (Turn) 1 on the first lap and that cost us a little bit of time. And then the next run we went into Turn 1 and turned sideways and got loose and just kind of killed the lap. So, we had pretty good speed in practice and just didn’t…..the driver didn’t do a good job."

KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER

YOU HAVE SOME SPEED IN THAT NO. 41 CHEVROLET THIS YEAR TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU FOUND OUT THERE TODAY:
“Thank you it is great to be here on the podium with the pole. The first few laps in practice we were down there in the 30 range with how different the track felt for the set-up that we brought. And how the bumps developed over there in the Tunnel Turn, surprisingly, and then how it changed Turns 1 and 3. It felt like there were six corners out there today on how hard I was working. I actually didn’t feel connected to the car. Then we had the wrong gear ratio in the transmission in third gear and we had to deal with that. Maybe it’s the right one now. So there was so much disconnect right when we first got here and we had to drop back, reboot. Tony Gibson, Johnny Klausmeier, the whole gang, today was a big group bonding day and a strength building day on what this No. 41 team can do together. To be so far off at the beginning and then to be here with the pole and have the track position and the pit box and everything that goes with starting first – incredible day. I still don’t feel like we got the pole. But here we are and it feels good to have three this season. Yes, there is speed in this No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy. I have to thank Gene Haas, Tony Stewart and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing."


DO YOU HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR CAR LASTING THE WHOLE RACE WITH THE CONDITION OF THE TUNNEL TURN? WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT TURN?
“Well it’s a beautiful entry way. For some reason the top side of the entry way was compromised. There are literally speed bumps the size that you would put in grocery store parking lots up on top of the track. Where did they come from? They had to of come from the underside where they were creating a beautiful fancy entry way. It is what it is. The sooner you get over it the better you are going to be. Today they showed me some video and my speed wasn’t necessarily lost in Turn 2. My speed was lost in Turns 1 and 3, which meant to me mentally I had to ignore the Tunnel Turn on how bad the bumps are there and get focused on the majority of the racetrack where it is the same and it is smoother. The problem is when you adjust too much for the bumps then it upsets the car for its balance for the other corners. I would assume we are not going to be able to get a track grinder in overnight or even Saturday night, but they should look at getting it ground down and putting on a better display of what the track should look like for when the Indy cars run here later on."


CAN YOU RECAP WORKING WITH DANIEL KNOST AND TONY GIBSON?
“Today was a great day to lean on Daniel Knost on his set-up that we ran here last year. We sat outside pole for this race last year. Today to be 30th in practice and to have a different set-up in the car we had to change things around. That is where and experienced crew chief like Tony Gibson didn’t sweat it. He guided the lead engineer on changes that he should look at, the assistant engineer, the car chief, everybody chipped in to help us change our car around from being 30th. We made all the right adjustments from when we were struggling in practice. You do that with an experienced group of guys. That is what I have on this No. 41 team. I just had to stay focused and stay calm and today we were looking just to cash in on around 15th. Then we kept bumping up all through the three sessions. Here we are with the pole."


HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP YOU HAVE HENDRICK HORSEPOWER THIS WEEKEND?
“Well we definitely have the strongest combination of what you would want for engine, chassis and then it’s up to us at Stewart-Haas to develop the downforce and then the balance of the cars handling. To have the Hendrick horsepower that is key. That puts us up in the top echelon as well as the chassis design. We can’t point any fingers at that side of things. They are the ones giving us the advantage to stay on top. Kevin Harvick is leading laps every week, we are doing well and today was a big day for this No. 41 team to develop into a big time player."


DURING THE RACE WILL YOU HAVE TO GIVE THEM MORE ROOM GOING OVER THE BUMPS IN CASE THEY LOSE IT?
“At this point it’s a watch and learn. We will watch the practice sessions tomorrow morning, the ARCA race will be tomorrow afternoon. That will be the first good solid indication of how we can race through there. If it still is undetermined then you go the conservative route, which is to get single file and there needs to be give and take. Give and take is very difficult in this day and age when the cars are developed the way they are with the aero package that you are going to be trying to get all you can getting down into the Tunnel Turn. You can’t let your day get ruined by taking a risk going into a risky corner. You want a high percentage type pass and if you are in a position that you are on the outside, the outside guy is going to have to yield."


WOULD YOU SAY THIS HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT DAYS OF PRACTICE YOU HAVE HAD SINCE THE SEASON STARTED? DOES IT SAY MORE ABOUT YOUR TEAM ABOUT HOW YOU WERE ABLE TO WORK THROUGH IT?
“It is very surprising to be up here with the pole. At the same time though it is so satisfying to see what we did today and to know all the emotions the feelings of staying calm. To have the lead engineer admit that he needed to do this, then having the crew chief go ‘well we need to look at doing that’ and then I told them as the gear ratio that we have leave it in there. We will work around it because if we change that and we are changing other things we are going to put ourselves into a box and we are not going to know what answers we will need for Sunday. Everybody had to chip in and try to weigh out the best possible option and it was an amazing run of the three sessions today. To be loose the first outing, tight the second outing and to be money the third outing then to have Denny (Hamlin) spin and the rest of the group not complete their full laps. That brings up the question if there is a spin I think the time clock should freeze in any round that we are in in qualifying and allow everybody that hasn’t had a chance to make a lap make their lap and at least see where they get to stack up if that is how it all went. I believe there were a few guys that didn’t get to finish their final lap.

(Media tells Kurt time clock did freeze, but there was only 39 seconds left on the time clock)

“Oh okay there was only 39 seconds. Yeah, if it’s less than 59 at this track then you can’t make it back around. Alright I didn’t know where I was because I was in my windshield – sorry."


HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO START UP FRONT AND HAVE THAT CLEAN AIR?
“It’s like a triple whammy of track position, pit box selection, it helps with race strategy and then to be in that clean air you get to dial in your car when you are up front. Because there are times when you work all day to recover from a poor qualifying run and you are stuck in that dirty air. Then when you do get to the front your car changes and then you don’t have the perfect balance to win a race. We did a lot of good things today in practice. We need to back that up tomorrow to see how our car stacks up in race trim. But feeling good about things."


[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]WERE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT ANY OF THE DRIVERS THAT DID NOT MAKE A LAP DURING THE LAST SESSION? DID YOU THINK ANY OF THEM COULD HAVE KNOCKED YOU OFF THE POLE?
“Anytime you make the final round it is the best quality 12 cars of the day. If I look at the number board there are Hendrick cars that are in the mix. Kevin Harvick, I think he got his lap in complete, but everybody is a threat. There is not one guy that you can really pinpoint because the lap time is so competitive. Everybody is running the sub 51 (seconds) and that is right on the ragged edge all the way around this racetrack. It’s a lot of fun to compete in this sport and to be in Sprint Cup because you know the competition level is the fiercest out of anywhere."

MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/VISSER PRECISION CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 3RD

ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT:
“It was a good day for us. Honestly just right off the trailer we have had a good car all day long. Hats off to the guys again for bringing a great racecar. Really just tweaked on it little things here and there throughout practice and then again throughout the qualifying session made good gains each and every run. We thought our third run was a pretty good lap. Obviously really close to the first two guys, but missed it just a little bit. I’m starting to get this qualifying thing figured out and that is something that is definitely going to help us race better and get better pit stalls. I’m looking forward to Sunday."


POCONO HASN’T BEEN A GREAT TRACK FOR YOU. HOW ENCOURAGING IS IT TO BE STARTING UP FRONT FOR THIS WEEKEND’S RACE?
“I mean starting up front is definitely important here. One of the most important places we go I would say. It’s definitely a good way to start the weekend. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow to get ready for Sunday. I think the race set-up will be quite different here. We will see what we got all-in-all a good start to the weekend. It feels like we are getting better each week at this qualifying thing. Here lately we have been hitting it pretty close each and every week. It is something that took us a little while to figure out. We kind of figured out it seemed like we were racing better earlier in the season than we were qualifying. Now we are starting to qualify how we have been racing. That is a good thing. We will keep working on it."


WHAT HAS THE TUNNEL TURN BEEN LIKE FOR YOU?
“It’s wild. The first time I went through there I was like ‘either our car is way off or something is wrong with the racetrack.’ It is amazing how much different it is than last year. I commented the first time I went through there it has got to be at least 10 times rougher. The bumps are 10 times bigger than they were last year, which is crazy. It is definitely interesting. I just can’t believe how much it has changed. I wasn’t sure if it was where they took the tunnel. I didn’t know if they took the tunnel apart or if they just kind of remodeled it. It obviously looks really good when you come in here, but we were like hopefully that wasn’t what caused it. But apparently that is not, I guess just a hard winter. These cars are so low to the ground and we don’t travel these cars that much anymore with the ride height rules. You are going across bumps that are 8-10 inches tall at 180 mph. Literally the tires feel like they are coming off the ground it is pretty wild. It is the same for everyone it’s just something we will have to figure out."


WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE DRIVERS NOT BEING ABLE TO COMPLETE THEIR LAPS?
“I didn’t even notice. I was debriefing. I saw that he (Denny Hamlin) spun out. That is tough luck. I mean that is tough. I imagine if I was in that position I would probably be a little bit upset. At the same time there was plenty of time before that to make a lap. So I don’t know. It just depends on how you look at it. I’m sure there will be some talking going on with NASCAR from the drivers that didn’t make the lap and come up with a way to resolve it I suppose in the future. I guess I would be pretty mad if it was me. I can feel for those guys."

Results

Pos. # Driver Manufacturer Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Haas Automation 177.599 50.676 Leader
2 19 Carl Edwards Toyota Arris 177.55 50.69 0.014
3 78 Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet Furniture Row/Visser Precision 177.522 50.698 0.022
4 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet AXALTA – PENN STATE 177.211 50.787 0.111
5 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser / Jimmy John's 177.200 50.79 0.114
6 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet Dow 176.526 50.984 0.308
7 2 Brad Keselowski Ford Miller Lite 175.967 51.146 0.470
8 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 177.676 50.654 -0.022
9 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Jimmie Johnson Foundation 177.385 50.737 0.061
10 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Crispy 177.193 50.792 0.116
11 22 Joey Logano Ford Shell Pennzoil 176.800 50.905 0.229
12 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet FARMERS 176.07 51.116 0.440
13 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Grainger 176.036 51.126 0.450
14 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet CESSNA 176.005 51.135 0.459
15 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Target 175.943 51.153 0.477
16 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Schrock / Menards 175.895 51.167 0.491
17 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Zest Ford Fusion 175.699 51.224 0.548
18 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS 175.671 51.232 0.556
19 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota Dollar General 175.531 51.273 0.597
20 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet Nationwide 175.466 51.292 0.616
21 55 David Ragan Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 175.418 51.306 0.630
22 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy 174.832 51.478 0.802
23 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota Jack Link's/Big Machine Records 174.236 51.654 0.978
24 9 Sam Hornish Jr Ford Medallion Bank 173.819 51.778 1.102
25 43 Aric Almirola Ford Nathan's Famous 174.791 51.49 0.814
26 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Clorox 174.771 51.496 0.820
27 16 Greg Biffle Ford Ortho Ford Fusion 174.683 51.522 0.846
28 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops 174.652 51.531 0.855
29 33 Ty Dillon Chevrolet Yuengling 174.317 51.63 0.954
30 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet SEM 174.031 51.715 1.039
31 46 Michael Annett Chevrolet Sherwin Williams 173.873 51.762 1.086
32 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet Interstate Moving Services 173.772 51.792 1.116
33 6 Trevor Bayne Ford Advocare Ford Fusion 173.695 51.815 1.139
34 7 Alex Bowman Chevrolet Accell Construction 173.41 51.9 1.224
35 38 David Gilliland Ford MDS 172.467 52.184 1.508
36 34 Brett Moffitt Ford Dockside Logistics 172.437 52.193 1.517
37 23 J.J. Yeley Toyota Dr. Pepper/Heinz 171.989 52.329 1.653
38 98 Josh Wise Ford TBA 171.887 52.36 1.684
39 35 Cole Whitt Ford TBD 171.752 52.401 1.725
40 26 Jeb Burton Toyota Maxim Fantasy Sports 170.623 52.748 2.072
41 83 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota Burger King 169.44 53.116 2.44
42 32 Travis Kvapil Ford VISONE RV PARTS 169.122 53.216 2.54
43 62 Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet TBA 0 0 -50.676

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