UPDATE: Kyle Busch’s qualifying time was disallowed after he failed post-qualifying inspection for an issue with the rear end of the car, rewarding Kurt Busch the pole and moving everyone forward one position. The defending champion will start 40th on Sunday; no further penalties are expected.
Kyle Busch captured his first career pole at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday evening. Halfway through the final round he surpassed older brother Kurt Busch, with a lap at 191.668 mph, to claim his first pole of 2016.
Busch, missed the 2015 event at Atlanta due to an injury sustained a week prior at Daytona in the XFINITY Series. In 2014, he finished a disappointing 16th after qualifying eighth. This is his 18th career pole in the Sprint Cup Series, as the defending champion looks to post his first victory of 2016 and clinch a spot in the Chase.
“It feels really good,” Busch said of his pole effort. “So proud of all these guys on this whole M&M’s team for giving me a really fast Camry. This is a place that is a lot of fun for the drivers and a lot of hard times that you kind of have to get grip here. Getting a good starting position for Sunday that helps.”
The No. 18 car has visited Victory Lane on several different occasions in the heart of Georgia, but Busch is the last driver to do it in the summer of 2013.
The older Busch was consistent throughout the three rounds of qualifying as he was in the top 5. After laying down a lap in the final round that looked like it was going to be hard to beat, he was thoroughly disappointed, but excited to be starting second in Sunday’s 500-mile race.
“It was a good consistent car and I hope that translates into race speed as well,” Kurt said. “It’s a matter of preparing the best car during the off-season to come to these mile-and-a-halves to see what you’ve got. It’s just great to feel this right away with the speed and the energy from the car.”
Jamie McMurray will begin Sunday’s race from the third starting position. During the off-season he made it public that one of his main goals was to improve on the 1.5-mile racetracks as a team and Chip Ganassi Racing looks to have improved in that category.
Trevor Bayne put down an impressive lap in his Ford for Roush Fenway Racing as he will start fourth on Sunday. The team was ecstatic with a good Friday as this his best qualifying result since he has driven the No. 6 car. His teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. also made the final round of qualifying posting his car in the sixth position.
Six-time pole winner at Atlanta, Ryan Newman rounded out the top 5 in qualifying as he was also consistently fast through all of qualifying.
Brian Scott will be the highest starting rookie on Sunday in 11th. His fellow rivals for Rookie of the Year Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott struggled throughout the session. Blaney wound up 24th, while Elliott didn’t even make it out of the first round and will start 25th.
Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin was the first driver not to make the final round of qualifying and will start 13th. He will be surrounded by some of the biggest names in NASCAR as Matt Kenseth is alongside him in 14th, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 17th, Brad Keselowski 18th, Jimmie Johnson 20th, and after being fastest in opening practice Kyle Larson will start 21st.
Ty Dillon, filling in for the injured Tony Stewart will begin his first scheduled race in the No. 14 Chevrolet in the 19th position. He was confident and intrigued at how much better his team got the car from practice.
The biggest surprise of all was that Joey Logano was unable to make it out of Round 1 of qualifying after hitting the apron and loosening his car up on his hot lap. He was never able to regain the speed and will start from 26th. Last year he started this race from the pole.
“Really loose,” Logano explained. “We weren’t super fast in practice, but we were a top 10 car for sure. Just really really loose the first run, made some changes but it’s hard to go faster your second run here with the tires wearing out so much.”
The Cup Series will have just one practice on Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m. before they strap in on Sunday and battle for a victory.
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