NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kyle Busch On Pole At Phoenix; Problems For Hendrick

Kyle Busch ended Friday leading a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep of the top 3 positions in qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway.

Busch, who won the pole turning a lap at 138.387 mph, won the 2005 fall race at PIR and has recorded 13 top 10s in 21 starts. It’s the Las Vegas native’s 18th career pole, first since Pocono last year, and continues his now nine season streak of at least one pole. It is also the third straight pole for the Busch brothers, after big brother Kurt won poles at Atlanta and Las Vegas the last two weeks.

Carl Edwards (137.515 mph) and Denny Hamlin (137.426 mph) will start second and third, respectively. Combine that with fellow Gibbs driver Matt Kenseth starting sixth and Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex, Jr. in eighth, it was a good night for Toyota.

Kurt Busch, after being fastest in an earlier practice session, settled in fourth. Kyle Larson will start seventh. But all told, Hendrick Motorsports, which supplies engines to both Busch’s and Larson’s teams, did not have a good Friday.

With nine minutes to go in the first qualifying session, Kasey Kahne had an electrical problem going into Turn 3. His Chevrolet started to smoke and stopped on the apron, causing the first red flag of the session. Kahne had qualified second in that round at the time. Although he advanced to the second round, Kahne qualified 24th after not attempting a lap in the second round and will start in the rear due to an engine change.

With just under two minutes to go in the third and final segment of qualifying, Jimmie Johnson hit the wall hard in Turn 2. The incident brought out the second red flag of qualifying. Johnson, who was out of breath in radio communications immediately following the crash, walked away uninjured. As of press time it’s still unknown just what caused the accident. Although Johnson qualified fifth, he will go the back with Kahne as the team will be going to a back-up car.

Surprisingly, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. couldn’t make it out of the second round. The winner of the last Sprint Cup race at Phoenix will roll off 26th on Sunday.

Chase Elliott, looking to rally back after two DNFs in the first three Sprint Cup races this season, will start 17th on Sunday. He’ll be the highest starting HMS driver in the field.

Another driver having a shockingly mediocre qualifying performance was seven-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick, who ended the day 18th. However, it doesn’t seem to be concerning the 2014 Sprint Cup champion.

Joey Logano will be the highest starting Ford driver in ninth. Logano’s best Phoenix finishes are a pair of third-place results, and he’s been consistently good at the mile-long oval since joining Team Penske in 2013. Fellow Ford driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. continues his solid start to the season by rounding out the top 10.

The full lineup can be seen here.

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