It took until the 13th race of the season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. But Kyle Busch edged a trio of Toyota teammates to earn his first Coors Light Pole award of 2017.
In the opening round of qualifying at Dover International Speedway, Busch’s No. 18 car turned a lap that did not earn him a top-10 starting spot. However, the JGR crew kept making adjustments and once all rounds were completed, Busch earned the pole for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive For Autism. His final round speed was 158.954 mph, .011 seconds ahead of Martin Truex Jr.
“It was pretty good for us,” Busch said of his qualifying effort. “We made some changes from the second round, and it made the car a lot better and busted out a really fast lap. I wasn’t sure that lap was going to be fast enough and that it was going to stick, but it seemed to be just quick enough.”
This is Busch’s first career pole award at Dover. In each of the two races last year, the No. 18 car rolled off the grid from third position, finishing second in the fall.
Truex, two-time Dover winner notched his second front-row start of 2017 (158.877 mph). In the opening round of qualifying, the No. 78 car slid up the track and had to abort their first run. He came back to post the second-fastest lap in the first round.
“I just screwed up,” Truex said of his first run. “We were too tight all day in practice and we made some adjustments. We went into [turn] 1 and it felt good, started to push the gas down some more and it got sideways.”
In the fall, Truex led 187 laps en route to his second win in the first three races in the playoffs.
Daniel Suarez will start from third on Sunday, a career-best for the rookie driver (158.346 mph). In each of the three rounds of qualifying, the No. 19 team was among the fastest 10 cars. It’s continuing a trend of improvement for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver as he’s got six straight top-20 finishes in Cup.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the best Hendrick Motorsports driver, qualifying 11th, while teammate and 10-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson will start from 14th for the second consecutive week. Johnson is seeking his first victory at the track in two years.
Further back, Joey Logano qualified 26th for Sunday’s event. That marks the second-worst starting position at Dover in his career. In 2011, he qualified 33rd, coming home 29th.
“The first run, we chased it up the track in [turns] 3 and 4, and we just over-adjusted,” Logano said following his lap. “We got tight the second run and lost some speed there. We’re lacking speed right now, and we don’t understand completely why. We’ll figure it out, this is a strong team.”
This slump marks the first time that the No. 22 car has started outside the top 20 in back-to-back weeks since 2013, when he started 30th at Darlington Raceway and 31st at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Logano still isn’t locked into a playoff spot after his Richmond victory was penalized as an encumbered finish.
The Cup Series will take to the track for a pair of practice sessions on Saturday, the first beginning at 9 a.m. ET. Final practice will begin at 11:30 a.m. ET.
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