FORT WORTH, Texas – Right off the truck, Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford was as fast as greased lightning.
That’s a good thing, because Busch’s first attempt in knockout qualifying put the No. 41 on the pole position for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – when the threat of lightning in the area halted time trials after the completion of the first round.
Busch turned a lap in 27.360 seconds (197.368 mph) in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford at the 1.5-mile track, edging teammate Kevin Harvick (197.116 mph) by .035 seconds. With Martinsville winner Clint Bowyer taking the third qualifying spot, Stewart-Haas will start 1-2-3 in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race for the first time in the organization’s history.
The track record holder at TMS with a lap at 200.915 mph (26.877 seconds) last November, Busch claimed his third Busch Pole Award at the track, his first of the season and the 23rd of his career.
With afternoon storms threatening to shorten qualifying, Busch and his team made a concerted effort to put down a strong lap in the first round.
“You’ve got to play all three rounds as smart as you can,” Busch said. “And so we went a little bit aggressive on that first round, and it paid off. I think in Round 2 we would have picked up even more speed, and then Round 3, that would have been where we would have needed to make a big gamble to see if we could maintain that pace.
“But I’m glad that we had the pace right off the truck, thanks to (crew chief) Billy Scott, Doug Yates and the engine department – those guys are building some good steam… It’s really neat to have our Fords at Stewart-Haas hauling the mail like this. When you go to attack the track and really stand on the gas hard, it’s a great feeling to know that it’s going to stick.”
Harvick was just a tick off Busch’s pole speed.
“We kept it in the family, and that’s a good thing for Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Harvick, a three-time winner already this season. “And maybe we can continue the trend of running well for the rest of the weekend.”
Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney qualified fourth, giving Ford drivers the top four starting spots for the season’s seventh race. Denny Hamlin will start fifth on the grid, next to reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr.
Joey Logano, series leader Kyle Busch, seven-time Texas winner Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson claimed the seventh through 10th starting positions, respectively.
Notes: William Byron was 33rd fastest in the session but will drop to the rear for the start of the race because of an engine change… Aric Almirola qualified 12th, putting all four Stewart-Haas cars in the top 12… Trevor Bayne completed his qualifying lap after time expired, bumping Ryan Newman out of the top 24… Brad Keselowski qualified 11th, Daniel Suarez 14th and Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. 15th.
— NASCAR Wire Service —