Kurt Busch will start the inaugural Charlotte road course race from the pole after snatching the top spot late in the final round of qualifying.
One of the last cars to clock in a lap, Busch knocked AJ Allmendinger off the top of the leaderboard with a lap of 106.868mph. There were no threats to Busch’s time when the clock expired on the round.
The pole is the fourth of the season for Busch and the 26th of his career.
“It’s pretty special; any inaugural event is fun to go to,” said Busch. “You just try to learn as much as you can through testing, simulator work and then watching others, and we had a plan going into that. I’m really proud of Billy Scott [crew chief], I’m glad it stuck, and it worked, and we produced the two laps that we did.
“I’m just real proud of everybody on this 41 car coming to a unique situation like this. There’s nothing that’s ordinary about this. Everybody is talking about this or everybody is talking about that — go have fun with it. Try not to slip too many tires because you’re going to slip, but just try not to slip too much, and I’m glad our setup worked. Now we got to go to work on race trim. We got to make sure we protect our tires through the long run.”
Allmendinger will start second following a qualifying effort of 106.811mph. With his departure from JTG Daugherty looming at the end of the season, Allmendinger said he has nothing to lose with no job for next year and let it hang out.
Playoff drivers Alex Bowman (106.800mph), Chase Elliott (106.596mph), and Kyle Larson (106.574mph) completed the top five.
Filling out the top 10 were Jimmie Johnson (106.462mph), Clint Bowyer (106.332mph), Jamie McMurray (106.104mph), Ryan Blaney (105.919mph), and Chris Buescher (105.556mph). Daniel Hemric, named Friday as the driver of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 Chevy in 2019, will start 11th in his second Cup Series start after a lap of 105.507mph.
Erik Jones was the slowest driver in the final round of qualifying at 105.409mph. Jones was 11th fastest in the first round of qualifying when he suffered left side damage bouncing off the tire barrier at the exit of the backstretch chicane.
Half of the playoff field failed to advance out of the first round.
The worst of the bunch was Denny Hamlin, who not only wound up with the 27th starting spot but damaged his Toyota when he got loose in the chicane and then came back onto the banking and hit the wall. After limited repairs on pit road, Hamlin returned to the track for another shot at advancing but failed to do so.
Hamlin will go to a backup car for the race and will start at the rear of the field.
Starting ahead of Hamlin will be defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. in 13th, Kyle Busch 14th, Joey Logano 15th, Kevin Harvick 19th, Aric Almirola 20th, and Austin Dillon 24th.
Busch was not fast enough to advance but also had two of his lap times disallowed for cutting the frontstretch.
Darrell Wallace Jr. will start 34th after spinning for the fourth time Friday during the first round of qualifying.
UP NEXT: Second practice at 11 a.m. ET Saturday.