For the second week in a row, Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Unlike last week however, there was no controversy has Kurt set a new track record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Friday night.
Last week at Atlanta, Kurt inherited the pole after running second to his younger brother Kyle who later had his time disallowed after failing post qualifying inspection. Friday night the elder Busch, a Las Vegas native ran a lap of t 27.49, 196.38 mph in the first of three rounds of qualifying. He then backed that up in the final round with a lap of 27.505, 196.328 mph in the final minute to secure the 21st pole of his career and the second at his hometown track.
“It was insanely fast,” Busch said. “It’s amazing all the detail that goes into qualifying with finding that perfect lap three times out there. My second outing we were way tight and I didn’t know where it came from. (Tony) Gibson, (crew chief) and crew went to town. They just adjusted on it. We gambled and we made that last session, which was great. That was icing on the cake to be able to go out into the third round. I was first or 12th it didn’t matter. “
Joey Logano who has struggled in qualifying this season found redemption with a second place run, Matt Kenseth was third, Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski was fourth, followed by Austin Dillon in fifth.
“It was better than last week,” Logan said. “Second is so close. Second always stings the most. I felt like that last run I just – I told Todd that our car was close I just had to want it more. I pushed as hard as I could and got a little tight in one and two and that was enough to give up that speed we needed to get the pole tonight. I am so proud of what this Pennzoil team has done to pick up over last week. Dang it. It is so close.”
Friday’s session was not without some controversy. With just over 7 minutes to go in the second session, Carl Edwards lost a tire and hit the wall exiting turn 2. Both Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers were ahead on their respective hot laps. Kahne’s lap was timed, while NASCAR ruled that they had waved the red flag and disallowed the time of Vickers. Tony Stewart, who Vickers is subbing for argued with NASCAR officials but to no avail. Kahne advanced to the final round, Vickers did not.
“Well, I’m going to go talk to NASCAR officials in a minute and find out,” Stewart said. “We heard them tell the No. 5 (Kahne) car to go ahead and finish his lap. By the time they threw the caution we were already past where the No. 19 had hit the wall and already into Turn 3. They said it was a safety issue. I guess us running into Turn 3 wide open… they weren’t worried about our safety they were worried about everybody else behind us I guess. We will find out. I know they will have a reason for it, but we are just going to put our two cents in and a different side for them to look. So hopefully we won’t have to deal with that scenario in the future.”
Kyle Larson led the first 20 minute session early until Keselowski went out at the 16-minute mark and made a lap that set a new track record of 27.73, 194.70 miles per hour. Kahne went second nearing the 14-minute mark. Vickers set a new track record however at 13:08 with a lap of 27.73, 194.72 mph. Carl Edwards was out soon after and smashed the track record with a lap of 27.67, 195.101.
Kurt Busch was just behind Logano who had just broke the record and set the record and what turned out to be the fastest lap of the day at 27.49, 196.38 mph.
Jimmie Johnson went out near the 8-minute mark, and the driver who has won four times and leads all active drivers in wins here went third. Kyle Busch was on the bubble with 7 minutes to go. Casey Mears went 13th with 6:30 to go, and knocked Kyle Busch out.
Both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, outside the top 24, were forced to make second runs. Harvick failed to pick up speed and advance; Kyle Busch went to 21st and did. Chase Elliott, who had also been bumped out, went to 17th on his second run and advanced. Harvick made a third run and was on the track as time expired and made a run good enough to go to 23rd, Kyle Busch was the last to advance in 24th. Jamie McMurray who hit the wall exiting turn 4, and Clint Bowyer were among the top runners who failed to advance.
Denny Hamlin was the first out in the second session of 10 minutes. Kenseth was third out and fastest nearing the 8-minute mark, but it was Keselowski who went to the top spot. Behind him, Edwards hit the wall with flat right rear tire; NASCAR stopped the session with 6:56 to go. Edwards was able to make it back to the pits with heavy damage on the right rear. Edwards team was forced to bring out the backup car as Stewart pleaded his case with officials.
After a short delay the second session continued, and Logano among the first back out, went to second. Martin Truex Jr. went to third at the 4:30 mark bumping Dale Earnhardt Jr. out and putting Larson on the bubble in 12th place. Austin Dillon went to 9th nearing the 3 minute mark knocking out Larson. Harvick went 9th shortly after. Kurt Busch on the bubble went out near the two-minute mark and went to third. Johnson went to 10th a lap later and put Harvick on the bubble. Vickers and Stenhouse went back out with just over a minute to go as did Earnhardt. None were able to move up. Danica Patrick and Ryan Blaney took the final laps of the second session but neither could bump Austin Dillon
Chase Elliott, Larson and Kyle Busch were among those who failed to advance.
The final 12 were Keselowski, Logano, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Hamlin Kahne, Johnson, Harvick and Dillon.
Kahne, Hamlin, Kenseth and Logano were the first out in the final 5-minute session. Kenseth was fastest early with a speed of 195.780. Almirola was out near the 3-minute mark and went second. Logano took his lap right after and was able to grab the pole with near 2-minutes left. Keselowski went out a few laps later followed by Kurt Busch; Keselowski got third, Kurt Busch snatched the pole with a lap of 27.505, 196.328 mph with just over 1-minute to go. Dillon went out last and put down a lap good enough for fifth as Kurt Busch celebrated his pole.
Harvick will start sixth Sunday, Almirola seventh, Kahne eighth, followed by Hamlin and Truex. After qualifying McMurray’s crew joined Edwards’ as those who will go to a backup car Sunday. With 39 entries everyone made the field. The full qualifying results can be found here. The full lineup can be found here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt 400 gets the green flag just after 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on Fox.