BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle and Kurt Busch sped to the top two starting spots in Friday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It’s the third time the brothers have started a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race side-by-side.
While they’ve enjoyed their share of success on the high-banked .533-mile track (Kyle Busch six BMS wins; Kurt Busch five BMS wins), they haven’t dominated qualifying here. It was Kyle’s second career MENCS pole; Kurt has one Bristol pole.
The No 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota posted a final-round lap of 128.822 mph; Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford) checked in at 128.804 mph.
The track qualifying record, for the record, is 131.668 mph set by Denny Hamlin (Aug. 19, 2016).
Brad Keselowski (Team Penske Ford), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing) and Ryan Blaney (Team Penske Ford) rounded out the top five.
• Waiting game: Drivers waited as late as possible before hitting the track in all three rounds of qualifying, most sitting on pit road until barely enough time remained to get in a single two-lap run.
Frustrating? Not at all, said Kurt Busch, who called it “a game that everybody plays.
But why the wait?
“You want the other cars to go to heat up that VHT just a little bit for you,” he said.
Spraying the lower groove in the turns at BMS with the tacky adhesive compound has become the default move at Bristol. It’s done to enhance grip. Seems the hotter it gets, the tackier it gets and the more grip it provides and waiting for others to race across it and generate heat can be … well, perhaps worth a thousandth of a second or so.
Some drivers like it, some don’t care for it but most just deal with it.
• Mighty Michael McDowell? Before Friday, the best starting spot for Michael McDowell at Bristol had been 19th in 2015. Sunday, he’ll line up ninth in his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
It’s only his second career top-10 qualifying result (he started sixth at Talladega in 2014).
McDowell said he looked at data from teammate David Ragan “and tried to figure out what he does that makes him go fast here.”
Maybe Ragan should be the one eavesdropping. The No. 38 driver will start 23rd.
• Kevin Harvick, winner of three consecutive races earlier this season, did not make a qualifying attempt in his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford. A crash during opening practice (the result of a part breaking according to the team) did enough damage to force the group to unload the backup car.
Rather than rush to get the backup ready, and risk another incident, crew chief Rodney Childers and his crew decided to prep the car for Saturday’s two practice sessions instead.
Officially, Harvick is listed as 39th in the 39-car lineup for Sunday.
• Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson could muster only the 17th fastest time in qualifying but folks have won from further back at Bristol so it could have been worse.
And then it was.
Johnson tweeted that the team discovered a cut in the left-front tire of his No. 48 Chevrolet. Because of the tire change, Johnson will forfeit his starting spot and drop to the rear for the start of Sunday’s race.