Not only was the Texas Motor Speedway track record broken twice in the final round of qualifying Friday night – but so was the record for the fastest stock car on a 1.5-mile track.
Moments after Denny Hamlin set the fastest time it was Kurt Busch who jumped to the top of the leaderboard at 200.915 mph. Busch’s time went uncontested and he will start from the pole in the AAA Texas 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBC).
“Happy birthday, old man,” Busch said about his crew chief, Tony Gibson. “Tony Gibson. All these guys. We just kept getting tighter and tighter through a lot of our rounds this year, so they asked me, do you want to do wedge, want to track bar, want to do air pressure? I said D, all the above. So we just freed it up and the Ford stuck.
“So, it’s really good on a track record-type pace to get the pole here at Texas. And to have all the guys working hard still and pushing. There was something special coming into the day and I think it was all Gibson’s birthday.”
The pole is the 22nd of Busch’s career and first this season. It is the second pole for Busch at Texas. The previous track record of 200.111 mph that Busch broke was set by his car owner Tony Stewart in 2014.
Hamlin will start second after running 200.617 mph. The No. 11 Toyota was the highest qualifying playoff contender.
“I thought it would definitely have a chance. We improved with our time each round, and we were top five each round, as well. So, I definitely thought once I ran it, it was going to be very close,” Hamlin said of his lap.
“Some of the guys that were up front, we dodged those bullets early in the third round, but the 41 (Kurt Busch) was the last one that I knew could give us trouble, and they got us right there off of Turn 4.”
Rounding out the top five were Kevin Harvick (200.378 mph), Erik Jones (200.326 mph) and Kyle Busch. Harvick enters Texas as the driver on the provisional playoff cutline and still searching for his first Cup Series victory at the speedway. Busch, meanwhile, locked up his spot in the championship last weekend.
Starting sixth will be rookie Daniel Suarez at 199.593 mph. Drivers in the seventh through 10th starting spots are all playoff drivers. Martin Truex Jr. was seventh (199.431 mph), Ryan Blaney eighth (199.380 mph), Jimmie Johnson ninth (198.727 mph) and Brad Keselowski (198.478 mph) 10th.
Seven drivers did not attempt a qualifying lap because they did not get through inspection, chief among them Chase Elliott. Last in the playoff standings, Elliott with start 34th on Sunday. Also failing to make an attempt were Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne.
Other notables in qualifying included Danica Patrick in 14th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17th and Daniel Hemric earning the 21st starting spot in place of Paul Menard, whose wife just gave birth to their second child.
NEXT UP: Practice at 3 p.m. ET Saturday.