Kurt Busch has won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in his hometown, claiming the spot for the second straight week with a top speed of 196.328 mph on a day of dizzying speeds.
After setting the track qualifying speed record in Round 1, Busch won his second career pole at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in his No. 41 Chevrolet, turning a lap in 27.505 seconds Friday.
“It was insanely fast,” Busch said. “I was hoping to put on a show for the home crowd, get the pole, but now we’ve got to go to work (Saturday). I hope we can get the car dialed in for long-run speed for Sunday.”
Joey Logano will start up front alongside Busch after clocking a lap in 27.572 seconds. Matt Kenseth came in third at 25.582, and Brad Keselowski was fourth with defending champion Matt Kenseth in sixth.
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NASCAR’s new low-downforce package, the Goodyear tires and the Vegas surface combined to put drivers in position for high speeds. In all, 14 drivers ran a faster lap than the previous track record.
“This is a track where you need more guts than brains,” said Logano, who is in the front row in Vegas for the third straight year. “(You’ve got) to tell yourself to put your foot on the throttle when you really feel like you shouldn’t. It is fun for that reason.”
Busch hit 196.378 mph in the first round to set the new track record. The older brother of Kyle Busch is in his 15th race at the modern track next to the 3/8-mile bullring where the Busch boys started their racing careers.
Kurt also won the pole in Atlanta last week, but only after Kyle was sent to the back for failing inspection.
Every car qualified for the race, since the 39-car field is one smaller than the limit. Last week’s race in Atlanta was NASCAR’s first since 2014 with a smaller-than-maximum field, as well as the smallest number for a Cup race since 37 cars ran at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996, according to STATS.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Speed and wind. The bumper crop of impressive lap times could lead to a speedy race Sunday – or the expected high winds could create caution and uncertainty. Logano and Kurt Busch don’t know exactly how the factors will affect the field.
“What we do hope is that it is a constant wind,” Logano said. “The gusts of wind is what crashes cars. … It is going to be dangerous, treacherous for sure.”
WALL WORK: After Jamie McMurray hit the wall during the first round, Carl Edwards followed suit in Turn 2 during the second session, forcing him to unload his backup Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Edwards wasn’t sure what happened, but he thought the right rear tire blew. The two-time Las Vegas winner was strong in the opening round of qualifying, but will drop to the back to start Sunday’s race.
BAD TIMING: Edwards’ collision hurt Brian Vickers, who is driving injured Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Vickers’ fast lap didn’t count when the red flag came out due to Edwards’ incident, even though Vickers was in the middle of his run. Stewart and his team were unhappy about it, pleading their case to NASCAR officials.