LONG POND, Pa. — In a renewal of their battle from last week’s Brickyard 400, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. found their way back to the front row in qualifying for Sunday afternoon’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Busch earned his 24th-career pole, fifth of the season and third-straight at Pocono with a sizzling time of 50.175 seconds (179.372 mph) in the No. 18 M&Ms Caramel Toyota.
“I was a little surprised (at the speed),” Busch admitted. “I felt like I hit (the lap) pretty good. I think I gave up a couple of things in a couple spots, but overall, it felt like it was a really good lap. I wasn’t going to come over the radio and say, ‘Man, that’s close. I think that’s right on target.’”
Being able to save a lap on his tires in the opening round, skating through with the 24th-fastest time, was somethign that Busch felt aided his pace on his final run.
“Our adjustments worked for all three rounds and got us to where we needed to be in order to continually get faster each time out,” Busch said. “Normally, you don’t ever really see that happen on re-run tires, cycled scuffs. Obviously, our car’s pretty fast and I’m looking forward to today’s race. It’s a great opportunity for us, starting up front.”
Sunday morning’s Coors Light Pole Qualifying session marked the first time that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams have qualified and raced on the same day in more than 40 years.
Truex’s runner-up effort was the fourth time he has qualified second to Busch this year, posting a best lap of 50.317 seconds (178.866 mph) in the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota.
The duo will be looking to put their lap 111 crash from Indianapolis last week behind them, an incident that resulted in the suspension of two crew members from Truex’s team after a verbal altercation with Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens on pit road following the crash.
Jamie McMurray was the fastest-qualifying Chevrolet driver in third (50.552/178.034), followed by Denny Hamlin’s Toyota and June winner Ryan Blaney’s Ford.
Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Brickyard 400 winner Kasey Kahne rounded out the dozen drivers who made it through all three rounds of qualifying.
Of note, Kahne was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to make the five-minute pole session.
Chase Elliott took a stab at knocking Keselowski out of the top 12 on his final lap, but came a half-tenth short in his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet and will start 13th (51.116/176.070).
Other notables that missed the cut for the final round included Elliott’s teammate Jimmie Johnson (14th), Kyle Larson (16th), Kurt Busch (18th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who barely got out of round one and qualified 23rd.
Aric Almirola was the first driver who failed to transfer through out of the first round, after a flurry of late activity in the 20-minute session saw Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Danica Patrick and Earnhardt all scoot above the cut line on their final flying laps.
Almirola will start 25th (51.563/174.544) after complaining his car was “very loose” during his qualifying run.
“We were loose, man,” Almirola said. “That’s just a product of impound qualifying, though. With just making one run at it yesterday (in practice), we were loose … but we were tight in race trim. So we had to free our car up for the race setup, but we had to make a pretty big stab at tightening it back up to qualify today. We just haven’t been able to find a happy medium for qualifying, but I feel really good about our race package. Just way too loose there to go fast.”
Others knocked out in round one included Austin Dillon (26th), Matt DiBenedetto (29th) and Ty Dillon (30th).
The Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway kicks off at 3 p.m. ET, live on NBC Sports Network, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…