On Friday, Kyle Busch claimed his first official pole of the season for Sunday’s Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep among the top three.
Teammates Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin qualified second and third, respectively, while Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.
Here is a look at the final results and times from Friday’s session:
|Finish||Driver||Fastest Time (Seconds)|
|8||Martin Truex Jr.||26.290|
|10||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||26.325|
|26||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||26.563|
Despite posting the fifth-fastest time, Johnson will start at the rear of the field Sunday after crashing in the third and final round of Friday’s qualifying, forcing him into a backup car.
The No. 48 Chevrolet had a malfunction when entering Turn 1 and viciously barreled into the outside wall, as NASCAR showed:
Johnson wasn’t able to immediately identify what caused the problem after being released from the infield care center, per Fox Sports: NASCAR on Twitter:
Rarely do such violent collisions occur at a track as flat and short as Phoenix, which left the rest of the garage thankful that Johnson was OK, given the nature of the hit.
Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted his well wishes:
Glad my pal @JimmieJohnson is ok after such a heavy impact.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) March 12, 2016
Before the wreck, Johnson had the only Hendrick Motorsports car in line for a strong finish Friday.
Earnhardt qualified 26th, Chase Elliott was 17th and Kasey Kahne was 24th after blowing his engine.
Nascarcasm offered a quip at Kahne’s expense, comparing the smoke from the engine to the weather in the Phoenix area:
Kahne will join Johnson at the back of the field to start Sunday’s race, marking the first time since June’s race at Dover that Hendrick won't field at least one car in the top 12, according to Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com.
Hamlin’s third-place effort is a strong indicator that he’s in line to bounce back after finishes of 16th and 19th in the two races since his Daytona 500 win.
Seven-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick surprisingly didn’t reach the final round Friday, settling for 18th. Harvick had his four-race win streak at Phoenix snapped in November after finishing second. He is a 3-1 favorite to win Sunday, though, per Odds Shark.
Kyle Busch won the pole at Atlanta two weeks ago, but his time was disallowed after he failed his post-qualifying inspection. Last week at Las Vegas, Busch was leading in the final stages before relinquishing the lead with six laps to go because of a right front-tire vibration.
The young Sprint Cup Series season has seen three different winners in as many races thus far, and the younger Busch seems to be knocking on the door to Victory Lane.