Kurt Busch set a qualifying record Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to claim the pole for Sunday's Kobalt 400 and will roll off first for the second straight week.
NASCAR shared a GIF of the No. 41 team celebrating in style on pit road:
Hugs all around! @KurtBusch lands the #CoorsLightPole for Sunday's #Kobalt400. Results: https://t.co/p9y9SgB9An https://t.co/0iU089FRAn2016-3-5 01:46:10
Here is a look at the rest of the 39-car starting grid for Sunday’s race:
|Kobalt 400—Qualifying Times|
|Start Order||Driver||Fastest Time (Seconds)|
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||27.696|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||27.792|
|20||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||27.915|
The 2004 Sprint Cup champion is gunning for his first win at his home track. Busch, who grew up in Las Vegas, talked about how each visit brings fond memories, per David Scott of the Charlotte Observer.
"Vegas is different," he said. "Every time I come out here, it reminds me of all the people that helped [brother and fellow NASCAR driver] Kyle and I. It’s fun to come back and reminisce. But ultimately you have to strap on the helmet and focus on the task at hand."
Busch credited crew chief Tony Gibson for the adjustments his team made throughout Friday’s session that kept him atop the speed charts, per Tom Jensen of Fox Sports:
It was insanely fast. It’s amazing all the detail that goes into qualifying with finding that perfect lap three times out there. My second outing we were way tight and I didn’t know where it came from. (Crew chief Tony) Gibson and crew went to town. They just adjusted on it. We gambled and we made that last session, which was great. That was icing on the cake to be able to go out into the third round.
Last week, Busch wasn’t able to turn his pole into a win at Atlanta, finishing fourth. Last week’s race saw a horde of lengthy green-flag runs, and Busch noted his long-run speed wasn’t up to par, per Scott.
Joey Logano will start on the outside of Busch in second Sunday. Logano was the second-fastest driver on the speed charts in Friday’s practice behind teammate Brad Keselowski, who qualified fourth.
Logano talked about how demanding Las Vegas can be—particularly in qualifying—per Scott.
“I felt like our car was pretty close,” Logano said. “I always talk about guts-to-brain ratio, and this track you’ve got to have guts and put your foot on the throttle.”
Friday’s event wasn’t crash-free, as Carl Edwards brought out the red flag in the second round after slamming the wall, as NASCAR showed:
We're under red-flag conditions after #CarlEdwards ran into the wall. 📺: @FS1 #CoorsLightPole https://t.co/XgWlj2hcZ62016-3-5 01:22:21
The two-time Vegas winner will be forced into a backup car and start at the rear of the field.
"It hit hard, bounced up the race track and, man, that was it," Edwards said, per NASCAR.com.
Another victim in Edwards’ scuffle was Brian Vickers, whose lap wasn’t counted because the red flag waved. Vickers, filling in for the injured Tony Stewart, did not advance to the third round and will start 19th.
Matt Kenseth, one of the most seasoned Vegas veterans, will roll off third. Kenseth tops all drivers with 516 laps led and the highest average finish at 11.4, per Racing-Reference.info.
Kevin Harvick—last year's winner and the favorite to win Sunday, per Odds Shark—qualified sixth. Jimmie Johnson, last week’s winner at Atlanta, qualified 11th. Johnson leads all drivers with four wins at Las Vegas.
Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin will roll off ninth. Hamlin crashed his primary car in Thursday’s testing session, but because he reverted to a backup for qualifying, his starting position will stand.
For the second straight week, the Sprint Cup Series hits another 1.5-mile speedway, though Sunday’s event will likely present different conditions than Atlanta did last week.
The pavement isn’t as rugged, the banks aren’t as high and the race is 100 miles shorter. With NASCAR’s new lower-downforce rules package, drivers should be in store for another relatively clean race with many lengthy green-flag runs.
If Busch can find the long-run speed he mentioned, he may also steer his way into Victory Lane in what would be one of his most monumental victories yet.