By NASCAR Wire Service
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Kyle Busch’s quest for an unprecedented third straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway couldn’t have gotten off to a better start on Saturday evening.
Streaking around the 2.5-mile track in 48.051 seconds (187.301 mph), Busch won the pole position for Sunday’s Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 (on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET) by .250 seconds over Kevin Harvick (186.332 mph).
The Coors Light Pole Award was Busch’s second at the Brickyard his fourth of the season (all within the last eight races) and the 23rd of his career. And it gives the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who won from the pole last year, a leg up on a record third straight Indianapolis victory.
Busch and Jimmie Johnson, who won at the Brickyard during his 2008 and 2009 championship seasons, are the only two Cup series drivers to have won consecutive races at the track.
“We’ve obviously had a really fast Skittles Camry here this weekend,” said Busch, who also hopes to break a 35-race winless streak. “We only focused on race trim in those two abbreviated practices (on Saturday), and the guys did a great job. We were just trying to work on the handle for what the race is going to be like (on Sunday), and I wasn’t sure about anything for qualifying.
“So obviously the guys did a great job listening to what our teammates had and what setup they had and what they were able to do. So they put that in our car, and it was pretty fast.”
A slight bobble in Turn 1 cost Harvick a chance at the pole.
“I got a little bit sideways coming off of (Turn) 1, and I couldn’t put the throttle down like I needed to,” Harvick said. “And then I was probably just a little over-cautious on the entry to 2, because I didn’t want to miss that corner and keep stacking time up.
“Our goal was to run the same speed every time out, and we accomplished that.”
Jamie McMurray qualified third as the top Chevrolet driver. Denny Hamlin will start fifth, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. failed to advance to the final round by .021 seconds and will start 13th in his last race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver.
“The car is a little bit better than that,” Earnhardt said. “I got tight into (Turn) 1 and thought, ‘Man, I’d better back (Turn) 2 up, but I didn’t need to back 2 up. So I under drove the second corner and that probably cost us down the back straightaway, or we would have made it into that next round if I had driven the car right.
“But we’ve had good speed all day, and hopefully that’s going to carry on into the race. So we’ll see how it works out.”