Byron "dropped the hammer" to claim Darlington pole

Image by Kinrade/LAT

Byron "dropped the hammer" to claim Darlington pole


Byron "dropped the hammer" to claim Darlington pole


William Byron is three-for-three this season qualifying on the pole for a marquee NASCAR Cup Series race.

Byron put his No. 24 Chevrolet on the pole for the Bojangles Southern 500 with a lap of 172.487 mph (28.510 seconds) Saturday afternoon. The Hendrick Motorsports sophomore also earned the top spot for the Daytona 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. The pole is the fourth of Byron’s career.

“I guess we dropped the hammer on that one,” Byron said referencing his Days of Thunder throwback paint scheme. “It was good. The car was really good for us. We luckily did a mock run yesterday. We had enough time to do one at the end of the first practice session, and I feel like that helped us propel our qualifying effort a little bit more.

“We kind of knew what the grip level was going to be like and kind of what our balance was going to be. It’s good to have the No. 24 Chevrolet on the pole, and we’ll just see what we can do for 500 miles.”

Brad Keselowski, winner of last year’s race at Darlington, will join Byron on the front row after qualifying second at 172.088 mph.

Completing the top five were Kyle Larson at 171.842 mph, Kurt Busch at 171.764 mph, and Daniel Suarez at 171.321 mph.

Sixth quick was Jimmie Johnson at 171.202 mph. Joey Logano was seventh at 171.011 mph. rounding out the rest of the top 10 were Chase Elliott at 170.952 mph, Denny Hamlin at 170.827 mph, and Ryan Blaney at 170.744 mph.

Byron and his crew chief Chad Knaus has been doing a solid job of points racing through the summer to put themselves in position to qualify for the playoffs. Byron is 12th in points coming into this weekend and said the team has recently been strategizing more toward winning a race.

“Definitely trying to just win this weekend,” Byron said. “That’s been the goal kind of the last three weeks of the (regular) season, is just try to win a race to give ourselves some playoff points which would help us in the playoffs for sure. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do different here. You need tires every time you are on the racetrack, so it’s easy – it’s four tires every time pretty much. That makes the strategy easy to be aggressive for the win.

“This is one of those races that’s pretty old school. It’s going to be about the best driver, best car, best team. There’s really no way around that.”

Former Darlington winner Kevin Harvick qualified 11th, while teammate Clint Bowyer was 13th. Erik Jones completed the top 15.

Martin Truex Jr. qualified 22nd. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch was 33rd quickest but felt something was wrong with his No. 18 Toyota, possibly an engine issue. His team is working to diagnose the problem.

The No. 95 Toyota was the only car to fail pre-qualifying inspection twice. Matt DiBenedetto qualified 19th but had his car chief ejected for the remainder of the weekend.

UP NEXT: Bojangles Southern 500 at 6 p.m. ET Sunday.