JOLIET, Ill. — Report by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America photo —
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon decided to run this weekend’s XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, and so far, it seems his decision has paid off.
Dillon was fastest when it counted, with the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet starting on the pole position for tonight’s Owens Corning AttiCat 300. The older of the two Dillon brothers turned in a final round time of 30.583 seconds (176.659 mph).
“I got a little loose there in [turn] 1, didn’t know if it was going to be good enough for the pole,” Dillon said. “My [turns] 3 and 4 was really good. Looking forward to tonight. We have a really good Rheem Chevy.”
The pole is Austin Dillon’s fifth on the 2015 season.
In his two other poles on 1.5 mile tracks this season — at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway — both showings have resulted in victories.
Richard Childress Racing brought the same No. 33 car that won Las Vegas and Charlotte, in which Dillon led 346 out of a possible 400 laps in the machine. The 2013 NXS champ also has a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Chicagoland Speedway and likes racing at the 1.5 mile tracks.
“I like the places you can make a big arc,” Dillon added. “I feel like that’s where I gain most of my speed and Nick Harrison does a great job of giving me what I need. He’s really been on the whole team all weekend to always strive to get better and keeping making this car better, don’t settle for just being fast.”
“We want to be way fast.”
The pole-winning time was a skosh fastest then second-generation driver Ross Kenseth, who is making his NXS debut in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota. Kenseth was quickest in the second session, but fell .002 seconds short of winning the pole in his first-ever race.
“I left a little bit off of turn two,” Kenseth said of the final round. “I think we gave up a tenth, tenth-and-a-half there and I didn’t realize it was that close. We’ve been all over the board from spinning out to dialing the car in and having decent race runs. I’m real excited to get this race going and we got a good starting spot if we can kept it clean all day.”
Another driver making a lot of noise in the final round of qualifying was Roush-Fenway Racing driver Elliott Sadler. The 2012 Chicagoland winner put up the second-quickest time in round two and tied Kenseth with a speed of 176.557 mph (30.585 seconds), but the tie-breaker went to the No. 20 team since they are ahead of the No. 1 RFR team in owner points.
Sadler has a new car this weekend at Chicagoland and is coming off of the team’s first top-five showing of the season at Michigan with a fifth-place run.
“I hate we missed the pole by so close,” Sadler said. “I was getting a little loose off of turn 2 and should’ve stayed in it, but I didn’t want to hit the wall again. This is a new car for us. Everyone at the shop has done a really good job preparing it for us. We were worried about one-lap speed. This car was unbelievable on long runs yesterday, so if it can run this fast by itself, we feel really good about tonight’s race.”
Sadler led his RFR teammates with the third-place qualifying effort. Points leader Chris Buescher and Darrell Wallace Jr. shared the fifth row and start ninth and 10th, respectively. Wallace has the same car he scored a top-five finish with in May at Charlotte.
Two of the three JR Motorsports cars start inside the top-10, with Regan Smith starting in fourth and defending series champ and summer Chicagoland winner Chase Elliott rolling off from the sixth-starting spot. Ben Rhodes qualified 17th in the No. 88 Alpha Energy Services Chevrolet for his first-ever start in NXS on a 1.5 mile track.
“On-throttle time is huge and I’m learning how important that really is,” Rhodes said of the NXS cars. “I’m not quite happy with a 17th-place starting finish, but I know we’ll race a lot better than that.”
Friday night’s NCWTS Iowa winner Erik Jones starts 11th in the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry after Drew Herring practiced the car on Friday.
There were a few incidents throughout Saturday’s qualifying session, especially with some cars coming off of Turn 2. Bobby Gerhart was the first to go around in his No. 0 Chevrolet, but kept it off the wall and later on completed a lap. The same fortune for Gerhart couldn’t be said for Joey Gase, who tagged the wall coming off of Turn 2.
Last but not least, Ryan Blaney was the final driver to have substantial damage on his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford when he got loose coming off the same corner and damaged the Hertz machine just enough for the team to have to unload a back-up car for Saturday night’s race. Blaney put up the fastest time in round one of the qualifying session.
Coverage of the Owens Corning AttiCat 300 starts at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, and the event will be FOX Sports 1’s final NXS broadcast of the year.
RESULTS: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Coors Light Pole Qualifying; Chicagoland Speedway; June 20, 2015
1. Austin Dillon
2. Ross Kenseth
3. Elliott Sadler
4. Regan Smith
5. Brendan Gaughan
6. Chase Elliott
7. Daniel Suarez
8. Ty Dillon
9. Chris Buescher
10. Darrell Wallace Jr.
11. Erik Jones
12. Dakoda Armstrong
13. Brian Scott
14. Ryan Reed
15. Brennan Poole
16. Ryan Sieg
17. Ben Rhodes
18. Jeremy Clements
19. J.J. Yeley
20. Blake Koch
21. Harrison Rhodes
22. Dylan Lupton
23. Cale Conley
24. Ryan Blaney
25. Ross Chastain
26. David Starr
27. T.J. Bell
28. Eric McClure
29. Jeff Green
30. Peyton Sellers
31. Derrike Cope
32. Joey Gase
33. Martin Roy
34. Jimmy Weller III
35. Josh Reaume
36. Mike Harmon
37. Morgan Shepherd
38. Bobby Gerhart
39. John Jackson
40. Matt Frahm