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
|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||CorvetteParts.net 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||Go-Parts.com Chevrolet||31.031||174.020|