Kurt Busch won the Busch Pole Award Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the inaugural running of the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 featuring a unique 2.28-mile, 17-turn, road course.
His 106.868 mph lap in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford earned him his fourth pole of the season and the 26th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Bush was the only Ford driver at the top of the leaderboard with Chevrolets scoring seven of the top 10 starting positions.
Busch, a playoff contender, spoke about the significance of the pole, saying, “It’s pretty special to get the pole at an inaugural event and to do it here at the Roval, I mean, there’s so much going on. There’s so much that everybody has to manage, crew chief, lead engineer, myself, engine tuners, everybody chipped in on this 41 car the right way. We had a plan for the first two rounds and it paid off. I struggled this year qualifying at Watkins Glen and at Sonoma, so we came here with a plan and it worked. Some conventional wisdom and thinking played out with our pole run today, but thanks to the guys, Monster Energy, Haas Automation, and Ford. We’re on the pole for the Roval.”
AJ Allmendinger’s expertise on road courses was evident as he will start beside Busch after qualifying second with a lap speed of 106.811 mph in what will be his final season in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.
“It’s a crazy race track, for sure,” he said. “It’s like my Champ Car days. It’s a street course in the infield there. The walls are on both sides and if you make a small mistake, you’re going to pay the price for it. To me, it makes for a lot of fun because you’ve got to be on point. You’ve got to be aggressive but you can’t be over-aggressive. I could nit-pick both my laps and say there’s a lot more out there, but you could easily try to get that and find yourself in the wall. My strategy (for Sunday) is to go out there and try to win. I’ve got no job, it doesn’t matter. I’m going there trying to win.”
Alex Bowman (P), Chase Elliott (P) and Kyle Larson (P), rounded out the top five qualifiers. Jimmie Johnson (P), Clint Bowyer (P), Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney (P) and Chris Buescher will start in sixth-10th, respectively.
Bowman was pleased with his effort but said, “Well I didn’t think we would qualify third on the Roval, so this was a nice surprise! Greg (Ives) and this Axalta team made some great changes after practice, which made the car a lot better in some of the turns. I messed up off the bus stop, so I think the biggest thing on Sunday will be minimizing mistakes. I’m glad to be up toward the front to start this race and hopefully, we can stay up front all day on Sunday and have a clean Axalta Camaro ZL1 at the end of the day.”
Johnson spoke about the significance of starting up front.
“Track position is going to be super important after that first stage and we are after stage points,” he said. “Strategy is going to play a huge role in this race, and the first guy with enough fuel and tires for the finish is going to be in great, great shape. But we need points in each segment and then obviously a good result at the end. So, starting this close to the front is a huge, huge help.”
Playoff drivers Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano qualified 12th-15th, respectively, with Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola starting 19th and 20th. The remaining drivers vying for the championship will start in the back half of the field, including Austin Dillon (24th), Brad Keselowski (25th) and Denny Hamlin (27th).
The Charlotte Roval course has proved to be challenging as evidenced by several incidents during practice and qualifying. It will also serve as an elimination race and cut the Playoff field from 16 drivers to 12. Only three drivers have clinched a spot in the next round – Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Truex. Bowyer, Johnson, Jones and Hamlin are currently below the cutoff.
Hamlin may face the biggest hurdle as he enters the race ranked last in the Round of 16. During qualifying, he hit the outside wall and damaged the rear of his car. The Joe Gibbs Racing team made repairs to the No. 11 and were able to make another qualifying run to start 27th. However, the decision was made to go to a backup car which means Hamlin will start from the rear of the field.
Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 will be televised on NBC at 2 p.m. with radio coverage by PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
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Starting Line Up
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
The Inaugural Bank of America ROVAL 400
|1||41||Kurt Busch (P)||Haas Automation/Monster Energy||Ford|
|2||47||AJ Allmendinger||Kroger ClickList||Chevrolet|
|3||88||Alex Bowman (P)||Axalta||Chevrolet|
|4||9||Chase Elliott (P)||SunEnergy1||Chevrolet|
|5||42||Kyle Larson (P)||Clover/First Data||Chevrolet|
|6||48||Jimmie Johnson (P)||Lowe’s for Pros||Chevrolet|
|7||14||Clint Bowyer (P)||Mobil 1/Advance Auto Parts||Ford|
|8||1||Jamie McMurray||DC Solar||Chevrolet|
|9||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||Menards/Pennzoil||Ford|
|10||37||Chris Buescher||Maple Cheerios||Chevrolet|
|11||8||Daniel Hemric(i)||Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff||Chevrolet|
|12||20||Erik Jones (P)||Reser’s||Toyota|
|13||78||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||Auto-Owners Insurance||Toyota|
|14||18||Kyle Busch (P)||M&M’s||Toyota|
|15||22||Joey Logano (P)||Shell Pennzoil||Ford|
|16||6||Trevor Bayne||AdvoCare Rehydrate||Ford|
|18||34||Michael McDowell||K-LOVE Radio||Ford|
|19||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||Jimmy John’s New 9-Grain Wheat Sub||Ford|
|20||10||Aric Almirola (P)||Smithfield||Ford|
|21||24||William Byron #||Unifirst||Chevrolet|
|22||21||Paul Menard||Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center||Ford|
|23||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||SunnyD||Ford|
|24||3||Austin Dillon (P)||Dow||Chevrolet|
|25||2||Brad Keselowski (P)||Alliance Truck Parts||Ford|
|27||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||FedEx Freight||Toyota|
|28||32||Matt DiBenedetto||Superior Logistics Services Inc.||Ford|
|29||31||Ryan Newman||Grainger/American Red Cross||Chevrolet|
|30||38||David Ragan||MDS Transport||Ford|
|31||15||Justin Marks(i)||GoPro Motorplex/Pickers Vodka||Chevrolet|
|34||43||Bubba Wallace #||World Wide Technology||Chevrolet|
|35||7||Ross Chastain(i)||SOKAL Media Group||Chevrolet|
|36||23||JJ Yeley(i)||Adirondack Tree Surgeons||Toyota|
|37||96||Jeffrey Earnhardt||iK9/Xtreme Concepts||Toyota|
|38||00||Landon Cassill(i)||Dairi O||Chevrolet|
|39||51||Stanton Barrett||Jacob Companies||Ford|