Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch was going to lead the Sprint Cup field to the green Sunday after winning his first career pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway Friday evening. However, in post qualifying inspection NASCAR said the rear toe was off on the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Busch and disallowed his qualifying time. NASCAR said there would be no further penalties, but Kyle will start from the back of the 39-car field and older brother Kurt will start from the pole. NASCAR made the announcement at 7:15 p.m.
Busch, who didn’t race here last year due to an injury, put down a lap of 28.925, 191.668 miles per hour near the 1:30 mark of the final five minute session, initially knocking off his older brother Kurt who had grabbed the pole near the three minute mark. Due to the time being disallowed however, Kurt Busch will now start on pole with Jamie McMurray moving up to the front row in the second starting spot. The pole is the 20th of Kurt’s career, and his first at Atlanta.
“It’s an awesome run that the car had in it,” Busch said after learning he had inherited the pole. “The team did a good job to dial it in for the three rounds. I was just trying to make sure I didn’t slip a tire any extra. It’s really easy to overdrive Atlanta Motor Speedway. The track challenges the driver, the car and the tires. It’s a fun place to come and try to lay down a lap.”
One of the big stories of the day was the strength of the Roush-Fenway Racing camp and the lack of speed from Penske Racing. Joey Logano, who followed up his Daytona 500 win last year with the pole at Atlanta failed to advance and will start 27th Sunday while his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski was forced to make a second run and barely made it into the second round. He failed to advance further while two cars from Roush, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne made it to the final round.
The other big story was the debut at Atlanta of the new low downforce package. Most of the field struggled with several nearly spinning during their respective qualifying laps. Those included Kevin Harvick who nearly spun as he was first in the final round and nearly looped exiting pit road. Kasey Kahne too has issues as he was one of the last cars out in the final round and nearly spun coming off turn 4 and had to check up. Kahne will start 12th Sunday.
Jamie McMurray who led the second round will start third, Bayne fourth, and Ryan Newman fifth. Stenhouse Jr. will start sixth, Harvick seventh followed by Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon and Martin Truex Jr. Other notables: Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin will start 13th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17th, Brad Keselowski 18th and Kyle Larson who was fastest in Friday’s practices will roll off 21st. With 39 cars entered in the 40 car field, all who entered will race Sunday. The full lineup for Sunday can be found here.
The Sprint Cup teams will have two more practice sessions on Saturday to work on the new low downforce package. Friday night Kurt seemed satisfied with the procedures used by NASCAR.
“Overall with the way the developments came up from tech inspection this shows the amount of enforcement that NASCAR is ready to imply to their technical procedures on what a car has to do to comply to all specs,” Busch said.
Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch later tried to explain what had happened.
“We failed post-qualifying inspection – time disallowed,” Stevens said. “They did clue us in as to why. We had too much rear skew – not skew – the toe alignment was wrong. Too much rear toe.”
“The parts move – everything moves – so you expect it to be a little bit different,” he added. “But this is the first opportunity we’ve had to gather post information was right now and it’s game time and it was too much. We were perfectly legal beforehand, which obviously or we wouldn’t have qualified and just the amount of load on the track moves everything a little bit and that little bit was a little bit too much.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will get the green flag Sunday just after 1:00 p.m. ET. Live coverage will be on Fox.