Suarez leads Stewart-Haas 1-2 in Qualifying

Daniel Suarez
Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez saved the best for last in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying Friday at Kentucky Speedway.

The 27-year-old driver from Monterrey, Mexico, was the last to run a qualifying lap at the 1.5-mile track, and he used the opportunity to knock Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola off the provisional pole for Saturday’s Quaker State 400.

Suarez covered the distance in 29.254 seconds (184.590 mph) to beat out Almirola (183.799 mph) for the top starting spot by .126 seconds.

“The car’s been very fast the entire day," said Suarez, who earned his first Busch Pole Award of the season and the second of his career. “We had probably the fastest car in last practice and the fastest car in qualifying, so I’m very proud of my guys, Ford Performance, Haas Automation — everyone who makes this program possible."

Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, hasn’t won in the Cup Series. Suarez would become the first Mexican driver to earn a victory in NASCAR’s premier series.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]“I really want to win so bad," Suarez said. “I haven’t been in Victory Lane for a while. The last time I was in Victory Lane was in Brazil, and it was in a go-kart race. I have been looking forward to bring a trophy home for a while.

“We have very fast cars. Now it’s up to me to make it happen (Saturday) night."

Three-time Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski went out early, and his speed (183.443 mph) stood up for the third starting spot, as Ford drivers swept the top three spots on the grid and five of the top seven. Kurt Busch (183.355 mph) was fourth in the fastest Chevrolet, and two-time defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. (182.587 mph) qualified eighth in the quickest Toyota.

“I think that’s our best qualifying effort on a mile-and-a-half (track) this year, so that’s something to be proud of there," Keselowski said. “I didn’t quite have the speed to get to the pole. I’d have liked to have had a later draw. I think there might have been a bit of speed there, but I don’t know if I could have got … Daniel was a tenth (of a second) and a half … I might have been able to get a half a tenth or tenth.

“All in all, a decent run for our Discount Tire Ford Mustang, and happy for (engine builder) Doug Yates and all the Ford guys to have all three of our cars up front with the Fords, but we’ll see what we have (Saturday)."

Kevin Harvick qualified fifth, followed by Daniel Hemric, Clint Bowyer and Truex. Austin Dillon was ninth, and two-time Kentucky winner Kyle Busch claimed the 10th starting spot.

Keselowski, Truex and Kyle Busch are the only former Kentucky winners in the 36-driver field. Front-row starters have won the last three Cup races at the 1.5-mile track, a good omen for Suarez and Almirola.

The lineup will be made official after Saturday’s pre-race inspection, which begins shortly after the garage opens at 1:30 p.m. ET. The cars were impounded after Friday’s qualifying session.

Unofficial Qualifying Results

Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1 41 Daniel Suarez Haas Automation Ford 29.254 184.590
2 10 Aric Almirola Valley Tech Learning Ford 29.380 183.799
3 2 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Ford 29.437 183.443
4 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 29.451 183.355
5 4 Kevin Harvick Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford 29.458 183.312
6 8 Daniel Hemric # Caterpillar Chevrolet 29.526 182.890
7 14 Clint Bowyer Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford 29.535 182.834
8 19 Martin Truex Jr. Auto Owners Insurance Toyota 29.575 182.587
9 3 Austin Dillon AAA Chevrolet 29.580 182.556
10 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota Camry Toyota 29.601 182.426
11 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 29.620 182.309
12 24 William Byron Axalta Chevrolet 29.625 182.278
13 48 Jimmie Johnson Ally Chevrolet 29.646 182.149
14 21 Paul Menard Menards/Quaker State Ford 29.667 182.020
15 12 Ryan Blaney DEX Imaging Ford 29.671 181.996
16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Bank Ford 29.686 181.904
17 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 29.752 181.500
18 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota 29.763 181.433
19 42 Kyle Larson Clover Chevrolet 29.776 181.354
20 9 Chase Elliott DEWnited States Chevrolet 29.779 181.336
21 20 Erik Jones Craftsman Toyota 29.821 181.080
22 88 Alex Bowman Nationwide Children's Hospital Chevrolet 29.874 180.759
23 6 Ryan Newman Acorns Ford 29.887 180.681
24 95 Matt DiBenedetto Anest Iwata Toyota 29.914 180.517
25 38 David Ragan Long John Silver's Ford 29.948 180.313
26 37 Chris Buescher Planters Chevrolet 29.954 180.276
27 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Military Chevrolet 29.985 180.090
28 43 Bubba Wallace Victory Junction Chevrolet 30.008 179.952
29 32 Corey LaJoie Ford 30.014 179.916
30 47 Ryan Preece # Kroger Chevrolet 30.023 179.862
31 36 Matt Tifft # Southwestern Trucking Ford 30.172 178.974
32 51 Bayley Currey(i) Jacob Companies Ford 30.387 177.708
33 15 Ross Chastain(i) Low T Center Chevrolet 30.421 177.509
34 00 Landon Cassill(i) StarCom Fiber Chevrolet 30.533 176.858
35 52 BJ McLeod(i) Jacob Companies Chevrolet 30.964 174.396
36 77 Quin Houff Chevrolet 31.031 174.020

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