AVONDALE, Ariz. — Saturday’s qualifying session proved why the eight remaining Playoff drivers are fighting for the last remaining transfer positions for next weekend’s championship race. Kyle Busch earned his first Busch Pole Award of the season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at ISM Raceway.
He set a pole-running pace on his first lap, then ran even faster on his second lap around the one-mile circuit at 140.116 mph (25.693 seconds). He edged fellow Playoff driver and defending Cup champion Joey Logano (139.752 mph) by .067 seconds, as only two points separate the two drivers that currently hold the last two transfer positions.
“I think this is actually the first race all year we made a mock (qualifying) run in practice,” said Busch. “Maybe there’s something to that. The guys did a great job. We fight hard every week trying to figure out what we need to do to continue to improve and get better, and a lot of others guys have certainly done that over the year.”
Denny Hamlin, the first driver below the cutoff line in the championship, qualified third ahead of Martin Truex Jr., the first driver to lock himself into the Championship 4 after winning at Martinsville Speedway. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will make up the third row of Sunday’s starting grid.
Last week’s winner, Kevin Harvick, will start seventh. The first non-Playoff driver was Kurt Busch who will start alongside Harvick. Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney round out the top 10, as all Playoff drivers will start in the top 10.
With points being tight and a big potential shuffle if a driver below the cutoff line wins, Busch understands the importance of getting the pole and starting strong with valuable track position.
“Hopefully today bodes well for tomorrow,” he said. “Overall, proud to start out front in this very important race and very important with track position and such.”
Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 will be the penultimate race of the 2019 season. Four drivers will be eliminated as the others will head to Miami to race for the Cup championship. Coverage for tomorrow’s race will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.