Kyle Busch Tops Joe Gibbs Racing Teammates For Good Sam 500 Pole

Kyle Busch Tops Joe Gibbs Racing Teammates For Good Sam 500 Pole

by March 11, 2016 0 comments

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch piloted his No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry to his 18th career pole on Friday during Coors Light Pole Qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway.

The pole is Busch’s third at the raceway. His pole winning lap was 26.014 seconds at 138.387 mph. Busch hasn’t earned a victory at the track since 2005. In the one and only practice session on Friday, Busch was eighth fastest. During qualifying, Busch was sixth in Round 1 and second in Round 2. In the final round, a red flag gave Busch’s car time to cool off, and he was able to get back onto the track and capture the pole.

“It was a good day,” Busch said. “Unloading off the truck everything seemed to go real well. I wasn’t sure about our speed in race trim but then hopped over to qualifying trim and for as not as good of a feel that the car was we had some good speed so that was definitely a plus. Being able to have some good laps there and qualify this afternoon and being able to run a really good lap there in the last session. Poor Jimmie (Johnson) crashed and I think that was our biggest benefit to being able to sit on the pole.”

The reason for the red flag in Round 3 of qualifying was for Jimmie Johnson hitting the wall. As Johnson entered Turn 2, his steering wheel came off, sending him hard into the outside wall. Johnson set the fifth fastest lap but will have to start from the rear during Sunday’s Good Sam 500 after the team was forced to unload the backup car.

“I don’t know for sure,” Johnson said. “That’s why we have to go back to the truck and talk about things. But, certainly, a lot of straight in an area of the track that I didn’t need to have straight. So, we’ll have to get to the bottom of it and see what went on. But, just a really hard impact to the outside wall. I’m thankful that we have Safer Barriers and soft walls. I’m very disappointed because we had a very fast race car and the guys have been working so hard to get this thing tuned-up. Thankfully, we have tomorrow to work on the back-up car and try to get it up-to-speed and get it going, but this is certainly not what we wanted right now.”

Just prior to Johnson’s unfortunate crash, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne had issues in Round 1. As Kahne entered Turn 3, his car started spewing smoke from underneath the hood. The team believes that the engine went into EFI “protection mode”, resulting in the blow up. Kahne was second fastest at the time, and the lap held on to be the 24th fastest time overall throughout qualifying. Kahne will also start from the rear on Sunday after the team had to go to a backup engine.

“I got out of the car about when it started smoking, but I shut the car off in Turn 1 after I took the lap, and then in Turn 3 it started smoking a little,” Kahne said. “And then, I could hear it running. So, I shut everything off, batteries, everything in there. And then I got out and it was still running. It just kept running until I drove away in the ambulance. So, I don’t know. I’m just really confused on what was going on. I have no idea.”

Starting alongside of Busch on the front row is his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry. Edwards is a two-time winner at Phoenix International Raceway. His last win at the track came in 2013. Friday’s runner-up effort was his 11th career top-10 start at the raceway. Edwards was sixth fastest in practice, 13th in Round 1 of qualifying and third in Round 2.

“That was my warmup lap,” Edwards said. “My second lap was going to be a good one but they threw the red flag. That’s my story at least. We actually had a good car. Just a really strong day for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). We talked about the struggles here and the guys brought some great cars, at least in qualifying trim. Different to drive. I had a lot more trouble with the balance than I’ve had here in the past so I think it’s going to be a better race because of that.”

Denny Hamlin will join his two teammates up front on Sunday as he will roll off third. The Virginia native only has one win at Phoenix International Raceway, and the victory came in 2012. Hamlin has three top-10 starts at the raceway. All day long, the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry was fast. Hamlin was second in practice, and in qualifying, he clocked the 12th fastest lap in Round 1 and the fastest lap in Round 2.

“We were just a little too free in the center of Turns 1 and 2,” Hamlin said. “We had pretty good balance but had to put a couple extra laps on our tires that some of the guys didn’t have to. We knew it would be a crapshoot with such a short amount of time after the red flag, and we did everything we could.”

Kurt Busch will start fourth. Johnson, who clocked the fifth fastest time in Round 3 will start from the rear. Rounding out the top-10 is Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway will broadcast live on FOX and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Good Sam 500 Starting Lineup:

1.) #18 Kyle Busch

2.) #19 Carl Edwards

3.) #11 Denny Hamlin

4.) #41 Kurt Busch

5.) #48 Jimmie Johnson (to the rear)

6.) #20 Matt Kenseth

7.) #42 Kyle Larson

8.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.

9.) #22 Joey Logano

10.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

11.) #1 Jamie McMurray

12.) #21 Ryan Blaney

13.) #16 Greg BIffle

14.) #43 Aric Almirola

15.) #3 Austin Dillon

16.) #27 Paul Menard

17.) #24 Chase Elliott

18.) #4 Kevin Harvick

19.) #2 Brad Keselowski

20.) #31 Ryan Newman

21.) #6 Trevor Bayne

22.) #47 AJ Allmendinger

23.) #83 Matt DiBenedetto

24.) #5 Kasey Kahne (to the rear)

25.) #13 Casey Mears

26.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

27.) #38 Landon Cassill

28.) #14 Ty Dillon

29.) #23 David Ragan

30.) #44 Brian Scott

31.) #7 Regan Smith

32.) #34 Chris Beuscher

33.) #95 Michael McDowell

34.) #98 Cole Whitt

35.) #15 Clint Bowyer

36.) #10 Danica Patrick

37.) #30 Josh Wise

38.) #46 Michael Annett

39.) #32 Joey Gase


Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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