Hometown favorite Kurt Busch roared to the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Busch pushed the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet to a fast lap of 196.328 mph, snagging the first starting spot for Sunday’s Kobalt 400. The pole position was Busch’s second of the season, second at the 1.5-mile Sin City track and 21st of his Sprint Cup career.
“Man, I wasn’t going to lift for anything,” Busch said. “I was giving it all I had. I’m really proud of the team to help me get to that third round. I was overdriving the car and I needed to settle in and (crew chief) Tony Gibson made a great adjustment in that last round. I was hoping to put on a show for the home crowd, get the pole, but now we’ve got to go to work tomorrow. I hope we can get the car dialed in for long run speed for Sunday.”
Joey Logano qualified for the second starting spot with a best lap of 195.851 mph in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Matt Kenseth qualified third in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. Brad Keselowski, Logano’s Penske teammate, secured the fourth starting spot with Austin Dillon completing the top five in the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet.
Kevin Harvick, the defending race winner, was sixth-fastest in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevy. Four-time Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson, who prevailed last week at Atlanta, landed the 11th starting spot in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.
Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, driving a backup Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 after a crash in Thursday testing, qualified ninth.
Carl Edwards failed to advance out of the second of three rounds of elimination-style qualifying after hitting the wall in Turn 2. His Joe Gibbs Racing crew unloaded a reserve car to prepare for Sunday’s 400-miler, the third premier-series race of the season.
“It hit hard, bounced up the race track and man, that was it,” Edwards said after emerging unhurt.
The crash was to Brian Vickers’ detriment. The fill-in driver for the injured Tony Stewart in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevy had a fast lap scrubbed off when the red flag flew for Edwards’ incident early in the 10-minute segment. Stewart, back at the track for the second straight week as he recovers from a broken vertebra, was seen with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz arguing the team’s case to NASCAR officials on pit road.
The opening 20-minute qualifying session was also marked by a pair of incidents. Jamie McMurray tagged the outside wall at Turn 4’s exit with his Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. And Keselowski’s crew was forced to change a tire on the Team Penske No. 2 Ford after a piece of stray metal caused a flat. The team was allowed to make the adjustment between rounds without penalty.
Busch, a Las Vegas native, also earned the designation of fastest qualifier with a best lap of 196.378 mph in the opening session, a shade better than his pole-winning lap. Busch’s speed eclipsed the former track record of 194.678 mph set by Jeff Gordon at the 1.5-mile venue last March.