Kyle Busch Wins Pole For Coca Cola 600
Kyle Busch will make his bid for his first point-paying Charlotte Motor Speedway Cup Series victory from the front row on Sunday after winning the Busch Pole Award in Thursday's knockout qualifying session for the 59th running of the Coca Cola 600.
Busch topped the final two rounds of qualifying and raced to his third pole of the season and 30th of his career with a lap of 191.035 mph, beating out Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
Busch has had a busy schedule at Charlotte over the last two weeks – running the All Star Race and the Camping World Truck Series race last weekend and doing double duty this weekend running the 600 and the Alsco 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
"The M&M's Camry was fast and it felt pretty good.," said Busch. "The guys did an amazing job in practice, we weren't very good in practice and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the boys went to work.
"Fortunately today I got extra track time so I have my Xfinity guys to thank for a little bit of that today. It's all good because it's pure talent all the way around – all these guys. Just feels good. This is a race that you always enjoy coming to at Charlotte. I haven't won here in a points-paying event here I guess so it would certainly be nice to get that done here this weekend with the 600."
"It's important to me, but I'm not sure it's important in the grand scheme of things," said Busch of picking up his first Charlotte win. "It's certainly important to me and I would love to get that knocked out of the way and to be finished with it until another new track comes up on the circuit and certainly it's been a trying time here over the course of my career and to have it come to fruition in a points race.
"The last I checked I have a trophy at home that says, ‘winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway,' so I'll take that to my grave with me if I do never get a points win here. That will be my saving grace I guess."
Kyle Busch was second fastest in the opening round behind Jamie McMurray but quickly shot to the top of the speed chart in the second round with his fastest lap of the day, clocking at 191.591 mph to top Hamlin, Logano, Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman.
In the third and final round, Kyle Busch was the first to take the track ran a blistering 28.149-second lap to claim the top spot all for himself, then sat and watched as the remaining 11 qualifiers tried to top him.
No one came close.
Logano was nearly a tenth of a second slower at 28.240 seconds (191.218 mph), while Hamlin took third with a 28.265 seconds (191.049 mph). Erik Jones (28.288, 190.894 mph) was fourth to give Joe Gibbs Racing three of the top four spots. Brad Keselowski ran 28.338 (190.557) to take the fifth spot.
Logano's second-place qualifying effort was his best so far this season. He has one Charlotte Cup Series victory under his belt – in the fall race back in 2015 – but has never won the Coca Cola 600.
It's not the pole. We were a solid tenth off, but we improved every round in getting our car faster," said Logano. "I think it's the best we've qualified all year, so that's a good sign for us. Hopefully, when we come back here on Saturday we're able to adjust on our car a little bit and get it to where we can be good on the bottom, be good on the top and as the track changes like we just saw hopefully we're good on both of those and that's what we'll work on and hopefully at the end of the day we're winning the Coca-Cola 600."
Kevin Harvick, who took home a check for a million dollars last Saturday with a win in the All Star Race, couldn't buy himself a shot at qualifying on Thursday after his No. 4 Ford Fusion failed pre-qualifying technical inspection three times and was not able to make a qualifying attempt, sending his to the rear of the field for the 600. His team will be penalized 30 minutes of practice time and his car chief, Robert Smith, has been ejected from the weekend's event.
J.J. Yeley's fledgling team also failed to make it through tech, and will start in the 40th position for Sunday's race.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Red White & Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Qualifying Position: 1st
What worked for you today in qualifying?
“Pure talent. All the around. The whole team, team talent. Guys did a great job. We weren’t very good in practice. We were off a little bit. You know we could only run a 70 and we ran it three times in a row and that wasn’t going to do it. That wasn’t going to be fast enough, so everybody went to work and did a really good job, so Adam (Stevens, crew chief) gave me a piece there that we could come out here and sit on the pole with and carry that Red White & Blue M&M’s Camry to the front so looking forward to keeping it there and having a great day on Sunday.
What do you need to work on Saturday so you’re standing in victory lane on Sunday?
“The biggest thing here is just the bumps. It’s just getting rougher with each and every year and winter and everything. The seasons that kind of go by here. We’re all going to be fighting the weather this weekend. It seems a little bit of some uncertainty there, but overall with the speed in our race car right now, once you get the balance right, the car has speed so you just got to keep it there. It seems like our box might be a little bit smaller than some other guys, but when we do get it there, it shows up.”
Did you save the best lap for that last lap in the final round of qualifying?
“We certainly did. The M&M’s Camry was fast and it felt pretty good. The guys did an amazing job in practice, we weren’t very good in practice and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the boys went to work. Fortunately today I got extra track time so I have my Xfinity guys to thank for a little bit of that today. It’s all good because it’s pure talent all the way around – all these guys. Just feels good. This is a race that you always enjoy coming to at Charlotte. I haven’t won here in a points-paying event here I guess so it would certainly be nice to get that done here this weekend with the 600.”
Do you put more pressure on yourself for this race?
“Yes and no. You can only do so much with the stuff that you’ve got and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing has been doing a great job and working hard to put together some better stuff each and every week and to get us closer to those other guys that are a bit faster. That’s all we can do is put our heads together and try to make the most of it. That’s what Adam and these guys did today from practice to qualifying. You look at it and I ran the same speed each time and that was all she had, there was nothing more in it so we went to work and science a few things out there it seems so hopefully it translates to race trim like that and we can have a good practice on Saturday.”
How important has it become for you to win here at Charlotte in a points race?
“It’s important to me, but I’m not sure it’s important in the grand scheme of things. It’s certainly important to me and I would love to get that knocked out of the way and to be finished with it until another new track comes up on the circuit and certainly it’s been a trying time here over the course of my career and to have it come to fruition in a points race, the last I checked I have a trophy at home that says, ‘winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway,’ so I’ll take that to my grave with me if I do never get a points win here. That will be my saving grace I guess.”
How were you so consistent through all three rounds of qualifying?
“We saw that in practice with our speeds from practice. We ran three runs and all three runs were the same speed, they didn’t change. We ran it on two separate sets of tires and we were running the same speed. The car was kind of like, that’s all it’s got and it was slow so we were kind of worried going into the qualifying session that it wouldn’t have the speed that we needed to qualify up front. Adam and the guys did an amazing job of making some really good, really smart changes of giving us what we needed there to be faster and tried a little different technique on my part to see if I could get some speed out of it as well and it just came together. Hopefully the stuff that we learned to make our car faster will translate into race trim and we can keep ourselves where we need to be for an entire 400 laps.”
What strategy do you use to get through 600 miles?
“It just changes so much here, that’s the thing. (Martin) Truex Jr. did it a couple years ago and we’d love to have a night like that. I’m sure the grandstands certainly wouldn’t. You just have to be mindful of kind of what’s going on and let things happen and let the race come to you. If we’re the ones that can be up front for much of it then that’s fine. There’s portions of the race though that when you’re running up front and leading laps in the daytime, that’s not to say that you’re going to be leading laps at night and vice versa. I’ve started in the back here and I’ve been good and I’ve started in the front and been bad. You just have to take it in stride and go through the transitions of the track changes and keep up with it with your crew chief.”
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