Kyle Busch Bests Ryan Newman To Score Atlanta Pole

Kyle Busch drove to the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap at 184.652 mph. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Kyle Busch was fast when it counted late Friday afternoon.

In the final round of qualifying for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, Busch put up the fastest lap to score the pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It’s the 28th career pole for Busch, and his first at the slippery Georgia speedway.

“It’s a long race here in Atlanta,” Busch said. “You’ve got a lot of guys that are fast on old tires and a lot of guys that are fast on new tires. You need to be the better car on both of those, and (Kevin) Harvick’s obviously really good at both of those and mitigating his runs and being able to figure out what he needs.

“We’ll work on it (Saturday) in race trim and see what we can do. But right now, qualifying on the pole today is a really good achievement for our team so far.”

It’s also a little “sweet justice” for the driver of the No. 18 Snickers Almonds Toyota. Shortly after scoring the pole for the race back in 2016, Busch found himself disqualified after failing post qualifying tech inspection, handing the starting spot to his older brother, Kurt.

This time, the qualifying effort stuck, and he will bring the field of 36 cars down to the green flag on Sunday.

“Feels good, I don’t know why we have to rewind,” Busch said. “Certainly that was one that we didn’t want to see happen that day. Qualifying up front at Atlanta is important. It’s so hard on tires here, you don’t want to roll back on tires and pass a lot of cars. You want to take care of your cars and keep your tires on for 500 miles. Even though you get tire changes, having to come from behind is harder to do than protect the position you already gained. So today getting to qualify on the pole is good.

“Last year we qualified on the pole a lot. We qualified I think eight times on the pole. That was the best qualifying effort from me on the year and I want to keep it going.”

Busch was 12th quick in the first round of qualifying, and sixth fast in round two.

Ryan Newman looked to have the pole after a strong round three run, which would have broken a tie for poles with the late Buddy Baker at seven each. Baker was Newman’s mentor as a young driver.

Instead, Newman had to settle for second.

“I just enjoy the racetrack, he said. “We’ve got a good racecar with our Liberty National Life Insurance Chevrolet. Obviously, the Camaro is strong out of the box, but wish we could have got that pole for them as well as us. Just in general look forward to this weekend. I think the drivers fought really hard last year to make sure this place didn’t get repaved and I think we are going to put up the same battle again this year.”

Kevin Harvick paced the second round of qualifying, but was third quick in the final round. Daniel Suarez – dubbed the “Monterrey Missile” by track announcer and NASCAR Hall of Famer Ken Squire – was fourth fast, while defending race winner Brad Keselowski as fifth quick.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 12.

On the other end of the spectrum, defending series champion Martin Truex, Jr. failed to make a qualifying attempt after failing to pass inspection three times.

Per NASCAR rules, once a car fails to make it through inspection three times, the team’s car chief is ejected for the weekend, meaning Blake Harris is done for the weekend. The team also loses 30 minutes from Saturday’s final practice session.

The team made the call to not try for a fourth inspection. Had it failed again, it would have meant losing crew chief Cole Pearn for the weekend. The team will try again to pass inspection on Saturday, but will not be facing losing a team member should they fail the first time.

“It’s unfortunate that we had multiple failures in what was otherwise a very successful debut of the optical scanning system,” said Scott Miller, Vice President of Competition for NASCAR. “We had rear wheel alignment problems and we had body scan problems and had rear toe failures as well and we just weren’t able to get all the things legal in those attempts.

“Between the combinations of those, we didn’t get a green light the third time through.”

Truex, Jr. will roll off 36th, last on the field, in Sunday’s race.

Two notables who did not make it out of round one included Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott, who timed in 27th, just three short of the top 24 cutoff.

“We were way off, not even close,” said Elliott. “So, I don’t really have much of an excuse for it. We just didn’t hit it right today and we’ll go to work tonight and work through it and hopefully get ready for tomorrow. It’s our only option now.”

Meanwhile, last week’s Daytona 500 winner, Austin Dillon, failed to break into the top 24 as well, as he will start 25th on Sunday.

Darrell Wallace, Jr., who finished second in last week’s “Great American Race”, made it all the way to round two, but no further, as he will start 19th on Sunday.

Five time Atlanta winner Jimmie Johnson also made it to round two, and will start 22nd.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, GA
Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 – February 23, 2018

Friday’s Qualifying Results

1. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 184.652 mph.
2. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 184.419 mph.
3. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 184.388 mph.
4. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 184.229 mph.
5. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 183.856 mph.
6. (17) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 183.722 mph.
7. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 183.485 mph.
8. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 183.449 mph.
9. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 182.284 mph.
10. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 181.052 mph.
11. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 183.430 mph.
12. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 182.952 mph.
13. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 182.825 mph.
14. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 182.507 mph.
15. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 182.464 mph.
16. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 182.129 mph.
17. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 181.955 mph.
18. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 181.634 mph.
19. (43) Darrell Wallace, Jr. #, Chevrolet, 181.467 mph.
20. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 181.307 mph.
21. (47) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 181.248 mph.
22. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 181.236 mph.
23. (24) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 180.804 mph.
24. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 181.842 mph.
25. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 181.753 mph.
26. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 181.550 mph.
27. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 181.082 mph.
28. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 180.293 mph.
29. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 180.117 mph.
30. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 178.914 mph.
31. (23) Gray Gaulding, Jr., Toyota, 178.269 mph.
32. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 177.045 mph.
33. (00) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 175.050 mph.
34. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 174.362 mph.
35. (78) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 0.000 mph.
36. (51) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.


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