For the second time in an hour, Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top three positions in qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway, with Carl Edwards leading the way for Toyota’s top organization.
Edwards parlayed a blazing 14.602-second lap into the Coors Light Pole Award for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, giving him a career-best fifth pole of 2016 and his 21st-career pole.
Continuing the day’s trend after a dominant performance from JGR in XFINITY Series qualifying, Edwards was joined by teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch atop the charts. Hamlin’s 14.625-second lap in the waning moments of round three rose the recent winner to second, with Busch’s time of 14.655 seconds proving good enough for third.
The lone driver to break up the Gibbs brigade up front was rookie Ryan Blaney. Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five to give Gibbs four of the top 5 spots. Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., AJ Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
Jeff Gordon and Chris Buescher qualified 11th and 12th to complete the last round. Gordon’s result was his first trip into the final round of qualifying since returning from retirement in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt, Jr., at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Buescher’s, on the other hand, served as the first trip to the final round for Front Row Motorsports as an organization, along with the rookie’s first-career visit.
While JGR dominated, a few of the early favorites struggled. Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick ended round two in 23rd and 24th, respectively, while Tony Stewart (27th) and Jamie McMurray (28th) failed to make it out of the first round.
Greg Biffle brought out the session’s lone caution with a spin midway through round one, similar to a spin Biffle suffered in Friday’s final practice session. However, while Biffle escaped the practice crash without issue, the Roush Fenway Racing driver suffered minor right-rear damage in his second crash.
The Sprint Cup Series field will return to the half-mile Bristol on Saturday for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Coverage begins on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET.