By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
JOLIET, Ill. – Paul Menard had the hottest shoe on the hottest day of the NASCAR season.
Torching Chicagoland Speedway with a lap at 180.102 mph (29.998 seconds) in the final round of Saturday’s knockout qualifying session at the 1.5-mile track, Menard won the pole for Sunday’s Overton’s 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Nearly 10 years had passed since Menard last claimed a Busch Pole Award. His only previous top qualifying effort came at Daytona in July 2008, when he was driving a Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
But on Saturday, Menard’s Wood Brothers Ford was .022 seconds faster than the No. 12 Team Penske Ford of Ryan Blaney (179.880 mph).
Earlier in the day, Menard finished eighth in the Overton’s 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland, under brutally hot conditions that saw the temperatures in the cockpits of the race cars reach 150 degrees.
Between the race and Cup qualifying, Menard used the brief break to recover.
“After the race I went back to the hauler—I’m on my fourth or fifth different pair of underwear,” Menard quipped. “Just been keeping it fresh, I guess. Drank some pickle juice, lot of ice packs and I feel pretty good.
“Pickle juice gives you all your salt back. It’s an old wives’ tale, I guess, but we did it in football all the time, and it seemed to work. I hadn’t drunk pickle juice in a while, but I thought today was a good day to do it.”
Menard had the fastest lap in the first round at 180.120 mph but slipped to seventh in the second. But in the round that counted, he had just enough to edge Blaney for the pole. Menard’s only victory in NASCAR’s premier series came in the 2011 Brickyard 400.
“It sucks to have a ‘1’ there—now we have a ‘2’ in the pole column,” Menard said. “Now we have to get rid of that ‘1’ in the win column and make another ‘2’.”
After receiving IV fluids after the Xfinity race, Chase Elliott qualified third at 179.748 mph, followed by Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.
“I felt like I got all I could,” Elliott said. “I don’t really know what I could’ve done different in that last round. It was good, much better than we have been qualifying, so it was nice and hopefully turns out that way tomorrow.”
Five-time Cup winner Kevin Harvick will start 13th, having been bumped out of the final round at the last second when Martin Truex Jr. cracked the top 12 on his second attempt in the second round. Truex, winner of the most recent race at Sonoma, locked up the 12th position on the grid, but failed post qualifying inspection and will start 36th.
Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez will start from positions sixth through 10th, respectively.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – Overton’s 400
Saturday, June 30, 2018
- (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 180.012 mph.
- (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 179.880 mph.
- (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 179.748 mph.
- (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 179.545 mph.
- (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 179.491 mph.
- (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 179.259 mph.
- (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 179.093 mph.
- (24) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 179.057 mph.
- (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 178.826 mph.
- (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 176.315 mph.
- (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 178.761 mph.
- (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 178.731 mph.
- (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 178.489 mph.
- (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 178.047 mph.
- (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 177.754 mph.
- (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 177.684 mph.
- (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 177.288 mph.
- (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 177.223 mph.
- (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 177.061 mph.
- (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 176.373 mph.
- (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 176.557 mph.
- (43) Bubba Wallace #, Chevrolet, 176.378 mph.
- (38) David Ragan, Ford, 175.890 mph.
- (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 175.827 mph.
- (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 175.467 mph.
- (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 174.306 mph.
- (15) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 174.087 mph.
- (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 174.020 mph.
- (23) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 173.902 mph.
- (99) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 170.740 mph.
- (00) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 170.412 mph.
- (72) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 169.194 mph.
- (51) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 169.099 mph.
- (7) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 168.471 mph.
- (66) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 167.567 mph.
- (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 0.000 mph.
- (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
- (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
- (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.