Kyle Busch continued his domination of the .533-mile short track Friday to win the pole position for Sunday’s Food City 500. He turned a lap of 14.895 seconds at 128.822 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. His older brother, Kurt, was just .002 off the pace in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford with a lap at 128.804 mph.
It was the second pole at Bristol and 29th career pole for Kyle Busch, who leads all active drivers with six NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series wins at BMS. It was the third time the brothers have qualified 1-2 over their careers with Kyle Busch winning the pole each time. They finished 1-2 at the race at Sonoma last season, which again Kyle came out on top.
“He always told people if you think I’m good, then wait for my brother. I’m glad I’m living up to that,” said Kyle Busch, who swept NASCAR Truck, Xfinity and Cup races at BMS last August. “I’m glad to grab a front-row starting spot, but I’ve got to be careful that I’ve got a good race car. Anytime that I’ve ever started up front, I’ve not finished up front and when I’ve started in the back, I’ve finished up front. I’m trying to change things this weekend and, thankfully, I’ve got a fast car where I can do that.”
Kurt Busch, a five-time Bristol winner, was looking for his second-straight pole position after posting the fastest time last week at Texas. He blamed not being able to property navigate the VHT spray in the turns to give the cars more grip for losing out on a potential pole-winning run.
“I missed it a little in turn one,” Kurt Busch said. “I got greedy, drove in there too hard and it washed up just a smidge. The VHT is sprayed down and if you miss it a little bit, it’s like a rut at a Supercross race. If you don’t get in that exact patch, then you’re done. It seemed like an eternity, but if you’re going to lose on Bush’s Beans Pole Day, you want to lose to a Busch. Two Busches on the front row, that’s not too bad.”
Fords swept the rest of the top five spots with Brad Keselowski third, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.
The rest of the top 10 included Kyle Larson in a Chevrolet, Paul Menard in a Ford, Alex Bowman in a Chevrolet and the Fords of Michael McDowell and Joey Logano.
Kyle Busch believes the VHT spray helps the Busch brothers overall at the challenging short track.
“The VHT changes the aspect of the race track,” Busch said. “It’s continually changing, so it works for drivers who can adapt well. It’s always better for me.”
BIG NAMES STARTING SPOTS
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, the defending Food City 500 race champion, qualified 17th in the No. 48 Chevrolet, one spot behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott.
Defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. qualified 26th and Kevin Harvick, winner of three of the first seven races this season, didn’t attempt to qualify after wrecking his primary car in practice. He will start last in Sunday’s 39-car field.
Other notables included Darrell Wallace Jr. in the Richard Petty Racing No. 43 in 20th, Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon (21st) and Denny Hamlin (25th).
Two Knoxville drivers qualified for Sunday’s race.
Trevor Bayne qualified 33rd in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford and Chad Finchum will start 38th in the No. 66 Carl Long-owned Toyota.
It will be the first time that two Knoxville drivers have started a Bristol Cup Series race. Three Johnson City drivers — Paul Lewis, Herman Beam and George Green — and three members of the Utsman family of Bluff City — Sherman, Layman and Dub Utsman — started the first Bristol Cup Series race, the 1961 Volunteer 500.