|Pole winner Kyle Busch|
|Jerry Markland/Getty Images|
Kyle Busch landed the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono Raceway.
Busch powered the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota to a fast lap of 179.151 mph in the final round of qualifying. The pole position was his second of the season, his third at the 2.5-mile track and the 21st of his Monster Energy Cup Series career.
Busch, in his first of four races with interim crew chief Ben Beshore filling in for the suspended Adam Stevens, will take the green flag first in Sunday’s Axalta presents the Pocono 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM).
Series points leader Martin Truex Jr. corralled the second-fastest lap at 178.543 mph. His Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota will share the front row at the head of the 39-car field for the second straight week. “Damn him," Truex told FS1 with a smile, afterward. “What else can you say?"
Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch completed the top five. Michael McDowell was 11th-fastest in his best qualifying result of the year.
Darrell Wallace Jr. qualified 16th for his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut. Sunday’s race will mark his first effort as a substitute for the injured Aric Almirola in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford.
Jimmie Johnson, last week’s winner at Dover, qualified 19th in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned in the 28th-fastest qualifying lap. He will start at the rear of the field regardless because of an unapproved engine change in his Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet in first practice.
Chase Elliott, Earnhardt’s teammate in Hendrick’s No. 24 Chevy, will start 25th in the field, missing out on the 24-driver cut after the first knockout round of qualifying by just six thousandths of a second.
The Monster Energy Series has one practice remaining, scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-12:25 p.m. ET on Saturday.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Red, White & Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 1st
What does it mean to earn the pole position without your crew chief here?
“I think it just shows the way Adam Stevens (crew chief) is able to prepare his team and his cars and the work that goes on back at the shop with the guys. This whole team is lined up with good personnel and Adam chooses all that and Joe (Gibbs, owner) gives us all the right tools in order to be successful. So far, so good and to come out here gives us the number one pit selection and gives us the track position to start, but we have to keep it. As we saw last week, we definitely missed the eight-ball on that and screwed it up pretty early in the race and knocked ourselves down and out almost. We were able to rebound and finish OK. We were probably going to run fourth until we had another loose wheel at the end. It was just a bad weekend for us and things didn’t quite go the way we wanted them to on Sunday and we will change that here this time around in Pocono."
How do you attack an issue in a single race and move on and grow from it?
“The biggest unfortunate thing is you can’t be on the sidelines and the guys that don’t need to be on the sidelines are the crew guys. They don’t necessarily make a whole lot of money, but they do get paid well – they don’t make a ton. They are missing out on their pay and their bonuses and that stuff, but all things considered we have backups essentially who are going to be this week as well as a backup crew chief. Ben (Beshore, lead engineer and interim crew chief) has done a great job. We rehearsed this a little bit last year when we missed Adam (Stevens, crew chief) at the Spring Dover race and 365 days later Adam is gone again. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance with our team, but we’re strong and a good group and we’ll continue to focus on what we need to. That’s all we can do."
What were meetings at JGR like this week?
“I wasn’t even there this past week. As far as the meetings with Joe (Gibbs, owner) and everyone else, I think it was human error, an accident. The gun didn’t get flipped from reverse to forward and it’s just part of it. Human error, I make mistakes all the time and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) makes mistakes all the time. We just have to live through it. That’s a big penalty and it’s unfortunate that we have to live through it. The way the rule was written, it’s intent of the rule wasn’t quite what transpired there, but we live and die by the rule book I guess so the consequences are there."
What was the key to your lap in getting the pole at Pocono?
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen any of it. I thought I got through turn one pretty good, and I got through turn two just OK and then entering turn three I felt like I slipped a little actually but as soon as it was done slipping, we had grip and I could go. It was sort of I was sliding in there and got nothing, got nothing and then all of a sudden it grips up and go. I was able to get the gas down and it was really well off of turn three. I did notice I was able to shift early and I felt like I got a good exit there and didn’t know how good of a lap it was going to be. It took forever to pop up on my screen. They said a 50.20 and I thought that was faster than the last round and hoped it was good enough for no one to beat it."
Do you think you can win the race from the pole?
“Every lap around here it seems to change so you have to be ready for everything. The first round it was right with first practice with (Kyle) Larson and myself and I figured I would have to battle Larson to win and I don’t know what happened to those guys, but a couple of the other guys showed up and came a little farther forward which was the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the 20 (Matt Kenseth). They improved each round and I didn’t think we were going to be battling those guys for the pole, I figured it was either going to be the 22 (Joey Logano) or the 42 (Kyle Larson), 21 (Ryan Blaney) – those are the guys that have been showing speed this year and I was hoping it was going to be me and I wasn’t going to mess my lap up and every lap we were going to post was going to be good enough."
What is your relationship with your spotter Tony Hirschman?
“I wish he was better and he did better. No, he’s done a great job. I felt like one of the spotters I had in the business years ago and paths just veered away from one another and since I’ve picked up (Tony) Hirschman I picked up a guy I could really rely on and trust to do a really good job. Being able to not only coach a little as the race goes on, talk to you a little bit about the lanes that you’re using at times, he’s really useful in the sense of being accountable and I literally don’t have to look in my mirror and double check. That gives a huge vote of confidence for him. There’s some other guys I listen to sometimes and you wonder what are they talking about or what are they saying and you think it’s a good thing I don’t have that in my ear. Certainly rely on Tony a lot and he goes underappreciated sometimes, but it’s nice to come to Pocono and I would like to reward a home track win, but more importantly I’d like to reward M&M’s our main sponsor a home win in the Lehigh Valley."
How has your team came together despite the issues which followed the Dover race?
“It’s hard to say our guys focus anymore when our leader is not here, which is Adam Stevens (crew chief). I think they already have enough attention to detail that we could miss Adam every single weekend and we could be right where we need to be. Adam is the reason why we are successful and he puts together a game plan and we learn how to be able to go through the weekend without him. We’ve just been doing our job with Ben (Beshore, lead engineer and interim crew chief) and the team and those guys know what to do each and every week."
How challenging will four weeks be?
“I think it will be hard. When you look at the stretch, I think the biggest thing is we looked at the four races – none of them are Chase races. I would have appealed it because I think there was a reason to. I think there was also a reason not to with going to Pocono and Michigan, Sonoma and then Daytona. We’ll do what we need to do and at least he can stay home with his kids more often the next couple days and not have to travel all the way out to Sonoma and miss that one. I think his wife and my wife had a wine date in Sonoma so she’s still coming but it’s going to be fun. To work as hard as we do and do what we do without him, it’s going to be fun because it is a challenge, but it’s also sad at the same time because you have to be without one of your main people."
MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Starting Position: 2nd
How was your day leading up to qualifying?
“It was definitely a trying day. We didn’t get much practice in. We were having all kinds of power steering issues and I think we only made a total of four laps and none of them were very good. Definitely took a few runs there to get my marks down and get a little faith in the car and what it was doing and where I needed to put it and we got faster each round. Second two weeks in a row stinks, but it’s a good starting spot for Sunday and I’m looking forward to the car tomorrow for race trim and see if we can get another win here at Pocono."
Does weather and cloud cover play any role in strategy at Pocono?
“Definitely comes into it. Today we had clouds rolling through there. You try to get them if you can, but there’s so much going on with cooling your tires down and making sure everything on the car is ready to go, sometimes you have to wait those extra few minutes and sometimes you have to go there and you miss it – that’s just the way it is. You need to make sure your car is cooled off, air pressure is right and you try to catch them if you can, but there is luck involved, that’s for sure."
What does it mean to have three Toyotas start up front again and are they able to win again this weekend?
“We’ve won twice and I’m hoping it’s us that wins, being a little selfish. Those (Joe Gibbs Racing) guys have been fast and these last couple weeks they’ve been right there. I think if they can just put a whole race together, they have the speed to do it – I’m sure we’ll be racing them on Sunday."
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 DEWALT Flexvolt Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 3rd
How was your qualifying session?
“It was good. We had good speed today and drove really good today. We had really good speed in qualifying, we were just off a little bit and you have to be pretty perfect to sit on the pole, we just got off a little bit on the balance and I got everything I could out of it."
What will a third-place starting position mean for Sunday’s race?
“It’s always been important, it certainly is really important right now with the stage points being given out and we’ve been way behind all year. It’s important to start up front and try to keep that track position as best you can."
|1||18||Kyle Busch||M&M's Red, White, & Blue Toyota||50.237||179.151|
|2||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota||50.408||178.543|
|3||20||Matt Kenseth||DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota||50.531||178.108|
|4||21||Ryan Blaney||Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford||50.591||177.897|
|5||41||Kurt Busch||Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford||50.619||177.799|
|6||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite Ford||50.621||177.792|
|7||42||Kyle Larson||Target Chevrolet||50.688||177.557|
|8||1||Jamie McMurray||Cessna Chevrolet||50.742||177.368|
|9||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil Ford||50.774||177.256|
|10||31||Ryan Newman||Kalahari Resorts & Conventions Chevrolet||50.840||177.026|
|11||95||Michael McDowell||FDNY Foundation Chevrolet||50.871||176.918|
|12||4||Kevin Harvick||Busch Beer Ford||50.974||176.561|
|13||27||Paul Menard||Dutch Boy/Menards Chevrolet||50.982||176.533|
|14||19||Daniel Suarez #||ARRIS Toyota||51.003||176.460|
|15||77||Erik Jones #||GameStop/Cars 3 – Driven to Win Toyota||51.075||176.211|
|16||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.(i)||Smithfield Ford||51.094||176.146|
|17||3||Austin Dillon||DOW Chevrolet||51.101||176.122|
|18||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Freight Toyota||51.122||176.049|
|19||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe's Chevrolet||51.225||175.695|
|20||14||Clint Bowyer||Haas-Automation Ford||51.257||175.586|
|21||47||AJ Allmendinger||Kroger ClickList Chevrolet||51.258||175.582|
|22||6||Trevor Bayne||Ford EcoBoost Ford||51.291||175.469|
|23||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Little Hug Ford||51.502||174.750|
|24||10||Danica Patrick||Aspen Dental Ford||52.124||172.665|
|25||24||Chase Elliott||SunEnergy1 Chevrolet||51.363||175.223|
|26||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance Chevrolet||51.504||174.744|
|27||13||Ty Dillon #||GEICO Chevrolet||51.669||174.186|
|28||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Axalta Chevrolet||51.774||173.832|
|29||37||Chris Buescher||Scott Products Chevrolet||51.830||173.645|
|30||32||Matt DiBenedetto||IncredibleBank.com Ford||51.898||173.417|
|31||38||David Ragan||Overton's Ford||52.046||172.924|
|33||23||Gray Gaulding #||Addiction Campuses Toyota||52.229||172.318|
|34||34||Landon Cassill||CSX Play It Safe Ford||52.248||172.255|
|35||83||Corey LaJoie #||Dustless Blasting Toyota||52.738||170.655|
|36||15||Reed Sorenson||Energex Wood Pallet Fuel Toyota||53.494||168.243|
|37||33||Jeffrey Earnhardt||Hulu Chevrolet||53.770||167.380|
|38||51||Cody Ware||Clemson Tigers Chevrolet||54.108||166.334|
|39||55||Derrike Cope||StarCom Fiber Chevrolet||55.825||161.218|