Erik Jones First-Time Pole Winner at Bristol

Erik Jones
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

After 27 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, rookie Erik Jones capture his first-career Coors Light Pole Award after taking the top spot in Friday's qualifying session for Saturday night's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jones turned in a lap of 128.082 mph in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry to claim the top spot from last weekend's winner Kyle Larson, who will start second ahead of Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.

The pole beats his previous career-best start of fifth earlier this season in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and comes just a week coming within a few positions of winning his first-ever Cup Series race at Michigan.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"It's awesome. It's cool any time you get your first pole in a series, but to do it at Bristol, that's pretty cool. I'm just excited," said Jones, who started 14th and finished 17th in his only Bristol start back in April. "I wasn't sure if that lap was going to hold out, but I knew it was a pretty good lap time for us. I knew it was all I had so just cool to be coming off a good week at Michigan and then coming back here, started off right.

"I was hoping we were going to be able to accomplish a few things this year and this was one of our goals – at least one of my goals for sure. Pretty awesome you know, especially at Bristol. It's a cool place to get your first pole."

Jones helped lead a Toyota rush in the opening two rounds of qualifying, finishing sixth in the opeing round behind Kyle Busch and ending up third behind Hamlin and Kenseth at the end of the second round.

He was one of the last drivers to take to the track in the third and final round before motoring to top of the speed charts. Among the drivers Jones shuffled down the line after taking the pole was Matt Kenseth, the driver he will be replacing at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018.

Matt Kenseth
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Kenseth, who is still without a ride for 2018, will roll off fifth in his Toyota Camry in his 18th-career start in the Bristol night race, where he's posted two straight DNF's.

"(The lap) was pretty good. The balance wasn't bad," said Kenseth. "We were just a little off on speed there. Everybody is so close together, but it was pretty good."

Kasey Kahne might not have a ride lined up for next season, either, but that doesn't mean he's going to go away quietly.

Already with a victory this season at Indianapolis and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs in his back pocket, Kahne recorded his best Bristol start since 2013 and will looking to rebound after crashing out last weekend at Michigan.

"The (Indianapolis) win was kind of out of nowhere and pretty awesome and ever since I feel like we have been a little bit better," said Kahne, who has one career victory at this track. "We still have some work to do, but you know it's not really time yet. Hopefully, we can get it before those final 10 (races)."

Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth, followed by Hamlin, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Blaney.

Among the surprising names who failed to advance past the first round were Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., while spring race winner Jimmie Johnson didn't make it through the second round.

Saturday night's race will mark the third Bristol race weekend where the track has applied a traction compound racing surface. The compound, called "PJ1 TrackBite" has also been used at Charlotte and New Hamshire Motor Speedways to varying degrees of success, the idea being the enhanced traction will lead to multiple racing grooves and increased passing.

Over the last few days, the track surface has been subjected to several torrential downpours – including one rain shower prior to qualifying – which means the track official may have to re-apply more of the compound before tomorrow night's race.

"The one thing that has hindered us the last two races here with the top not coming in quick enough is all the rain we've had," said Jamie McMurray, who qualified 11th. "Once the top gets rubbered in that will be the fastest groove"

"They are not putting the ‘sticky stuff' quite as wide around the bottom this time as the spring (race), so that is going to make the pace down there a little bit slower already," said second-place qualifier Kyle Larson. "I think the top is going to be really good. It's going to be racy as always."

RACE LINEUP

Pos. # Driver Make Sponsor Lap Behind Speed
1 77 Erik Jones Toyota 5-hour ENERGY 14.981 LEADER 128.082
2 42 Kyle Larson Chevy Huggies Little Movers 14.984 -0.003 128.057
3 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy Rated Red 15.005 -0.024 127.877
4 24 Chase Elliott Chevy NAPA 15.031 -0.050 127.656
5 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota DeWalt Flexvolt 15.042 -0.061 127.563
6 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota Bass Pro Shop 15.046 -0.065 127.529
7 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 15.062 -0.081 127.393
8 22 Joey Logano Ford Shell Pennzoil 15.108 -0.127 127.006
9 14 Clint Bowyer Ford Rush Truck Centers 15.117 -0.136 126.930
10 21 Ryan Blaney Ford Motorcraft 15.126 0.145 126.854
11 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy McDonalds/Cessna 15.225 -0.244 126.030
12 19 Daniel Suarez Toyota Irwin / Lenox 15.244 -0.263 125.872
13 31 Ryan Newman Chevy Caterpillar 15.100 -0.119 127.073
14 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Fastenal 15.108 -0.127 127.006
15 37 Chris Buescher Chevy Bush’s Grillin’ Beans 15.120 -0.139 126.905
16 3 Austin Dillon Chevy Dow Energy & Water 15.121 -0.140 126.896
17 2 Brad Keselowski Ford AutoTrader 15.133 -0.152 126.796
18 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Caramel 15.143 -0.162 126.712
19 38 David Ragan Ford Juice Battery 15.146 -0.165 126.687
20 6 Trevor Bayne Ford Tim Duerr EcoBoost 15.179 -0.198 126.411
21 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy Lowe's 15.181 -0.200 126.395
22 13 Ty Dillon Chevy GEICO 15.230 -0.249 125.988
23 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevy Kroger Click List 15.337 -0.356 125.109
24 10 Danica Patrick Ford One Cure 15.403 -0.422 124.573
25 41 Kurt Busch Ford Monster Energy 15.194 -0.213 126.287
26 95 Michael McDowell Chevy TBD 15.212 -0.231 126.137
27 27 Paul Menard Chevy Knauf / Menards 15.255 -0.274 125.782
28 43 Aric Almirola Ford Smithfield 15.255 -0.274 125.782
29 4 Kevin Harvick Ford Busch Outdoors 15.259 -0.278 125.749
30 7 JJ Yeley Chevy TBD 15.282 -0.301 125.559
31 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevy Axalta-Ducks Unlimited 15.287 -0.306 125.518
32 72 Cole Whitt Chevy Bad Boy Mowers 15.329 -0.348 125.175
33 34 Landon Cassill Ford Love’s Travel Stops 15.376 -0.395 124.792
34 32 Matt DiBenedetto Ford E.J. Wade Construction 15.406 -0.425 124.549
35 83 Corey Lajoie Toyota HMS Motorsport 15.453 -0.472 124.170
36 51 BJ McLeod Chevy NEX Transportation 15.503 -0.522 123.770
37 55 Gray Gaulding Toyota LaColombe Draft Latte 15.531 -0.550 123.546
38 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevy Hulu 15.554 -0.573 123.364
39 15 Reed Sorenson Toyota Low T Centers 15.623 -0.642 122.819
40 23 Joey Gase Toyota Best Home Furnishings 15.777 -0.796 121.620

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