Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Larson Scores Texas Pole, as Busch and Johnson Find Trouble in Practice

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Larson has been the master of qualifying lately in the NASCAR Cup Series and Texas Motor Speedway was no different as he claimed his third straight pole.

Larson hustled his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet around the 1.5-mile quad-oval in 28.366 seconds, 190.369 mph to rocket to the top of the scoring pylon to score the pole position for Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400.

“It was a pretty intense qualifying session,” Larson said. “I felt like the track was really slick in practice and you’re having to kind of talk to yourself before you make your lap knowing you have to commit even more than you did in practice to go fast is difficult.

“Then the lap itself both first round and second round, there were moments where you had grip and moments where you’re like, I’m going to crash. It’s pretty intense from behind the wheel, but it’s great when you can accomplish a pole and feed your confidence a little bit.”

Ty Gibbs, who was fastest in practice to start the day, will join Larson on the front row as he has his sights set on his first Cup Series victory.

Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick will roll off from third and fourth, followed by Chase Briscoe and defending race winner William Byron in fifth and sixth. The remainder of the top-10 starters include Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, Martin Truex, Jr., and Bubba Wallace.

More Turmoil at Texas for Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch started off the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway on a high note, winning Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, but when Saturday morning rolled around, things quickly turned sour.

Entering the race weekend with DNF’s in the last two races at this facility, Busch found himself in the wall in practice, relegating him to a backup car for Sunday. If he is to turn his bad luck around on Sunday, he’ll have to do it from the back of the pack in a backup car.

Replays showed that Busch lost control of his car in Turns 1 and 2 during his practice run, spinning around and backing his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet into the outside wall. Though he was able to limp his way back to the garage, the damage was just too much to be able to repair in time for qualifying or the race, forcing the team to have to break out the backup.

Jimmie Johnson Makes Texas Return

Though Jimmie Johnson is a seven-time winner at Texas Motor Speedway, his first race back at the track since retiring from full-time competition in 2020 is off to an inauspicious start.

Making his first laps on track in Saturday’s practice session, Johnson ended up in the wall in his No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Toyota, showcasing just how treacherous driving a Next Gen car around the 1.5-mile track can be for even the most storied of champions.

Johnson seemingly foreshadowed his issues ahead of practice, noting off-hand in a press conference that the reconfigured Turn 1 and 2 would be the place that gives him the most anxiety.

“It’s funny now, the way the place drives, just have a lot of anxiety about turns one and two,” said Johnson.

Fast forward to practice and that was exactly where he ran into trouble. It took only a bobble for his to get out of shape and up into the wall.

“Unfortunately, I just got a little loose into Turn 1,” Johnson said. “I caught it, but it’s such a narrow lane that once I caught the car, I was in the marbles and kind of along for the ride then. The guys are looking at the car in the garage area. There’s no doubt the Advent Toyota won’t make qualifying, but it’s unclear yet if it’s a backup car or just fixing the body and the right rear corner.”

Earlier in the day, Johnson pointed to the difference between the last generation of car that he was so successful in and the Next Gen car, which he is still trying to get his arms wrapped around.

“I spent a lifetime running a car off the right rear. This car you just cannot do that,” Johnson said. “From the aero platform, the tire and I believe the side wall stiffness of the tire, you can’t slip and slide this car around like I like to do.

“It got me in Charlotte – the last mile-and-a-half I was on in Charlotte – it got out front under me and I crashed. I kept telling myself coming into this weekend that I need to drive off the right front, and you drive through the right front and not my typical style of driving on or through the right rear tire.”

Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.