Pulling double-duty this weekend, Kyle Busch was able to score two poles in one afternoon when he laid down the fastest lap of the 46 drivers to qualify for the Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400 at the Richmond International Raceway. The nineteenth car to make a qualifying run, Busch was the only car to break into the 127-mph zone with his pole winning lap of 21.247 seconds at a speed of 127.077 mph.
“That’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s the plan, anyway,” Busch said after his pole-winning run. “I was a little worried, the first lap didn’t come in quite the way I wanted it to, but the second lap, it really got going. I’m proud of these guys.”
Busch’s fast lap knocked Michael Waltrip Racing’s David Reutimann from the top spot. Following a strong showing last week in Talladega, the No. 00 Toyota held onto the top spot for 15 qualifiers until Busch laid down his lap. A string of cars – Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray – made impressive runs at Reutimann’s mark, but it was not until Busch’s lap that Reutimann was knocked off the pole.
“I’m actually surprised it held up as long as it did,” Reutimann said. “The track did get a little cooler, it got a little quicker. I thought those guys were going to knock us down a few more [spots], but thankfully we’ve got good starting position and good pit selection for tomorrow.”
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon will make up the second row when the cars roll off for Saturday night’s race. Coming off two weeks of controversy and conflict, the two rolled off one after another. Gordon’s No. 24 posted the third-fastest time with a lap of 21.365 seconds, only to be knocked back by Johnson’s lap of 21.350 seconds right after.
For the go-or-go-home crowd, Joe Nemechek stole the show with an impressive lap good enough for 11th. With a strong car throughout the day’s practices, Nemechek was confident he could get the job done and his lap time proved it.
“Something good is going to come out of this,” a hopeful Nemechek said. “We’re needing a sponsor really bad. We’ve got a great race team, great equipment and I’m just happy to be here.”
Second-fastest of the go-or-go-home cars was Casey Mears in the Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet. Making his first start with the team, Mears posted a lap fast enough for 13th.
While Nemechek and Mears enjoyed their strong qualifying efforts, PRISM Motorsports was forced to pack up and head home. Drivers Michael McDowell and Dave Blaney posted the 43rd and 45th fastest lap times, respectively, not good enough to make the show. Max Papis will also make the trip home early after locking up the brakes in turn 1 on his first lap. While he was able to keep it off the wall, Papis’s mistake killed his momentum and his chances at racing in Saturday night’s race.