On an unpredictable course like the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway, track position is as valuable as ever.
That means Kurt Busch, who won the pole Friday night for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 race, has to be especially happy with his performance.
“It’s pretty special. Any inaugural event is fun to go to,” Busch said. “We had a plan going into that. ... I’m just really proud of everyone on this 41 car.”
While Busch will start on the pole, he’ll be joined on the front row by A.J. Allmendinger. Alex Bowman will start third, Chase Elliott fourth and Kyle Larson will fifth.
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As for the Big 4? They were nowhere near the top of qualifying.
Martin Truex Jr. will start in 13th. Kyle Busch 14th, Kevin Harvick 19th and Brad Keselowski 25th.
Other notes from a busy Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway:
▪ JTG Daugherty Racing announced that Ryan Preece would join its Cup Series team and drive the No. 47 car beginning next season. Preece, currently a part-time Xfinity Series driver, will replace A.J. Allmendinger at JTG. Chris Buescher, 23rd in the Cup Series standings, will be back with the team in 2019 as well.
▪ In a second driver announcement Friday, Richard Childress Racing confirmed Daniel Hemric will be the team’s second Cup Series driver next season. Hemric is currently second in the Xfinity Series standings and will fill in for the departed Ryan Newman, who has already said he will be moving to Roush Fenway Racing for the 2019 season.
“I’m just incredibly honored and humbled,” Hemric said. “My dream has always been to race for championships in the NASCAR Cup Series. I have worked hard to get here and those who know me and have supported me, know I take nothing for granted. The time has come to take that next step.”
▪ Aric Almirola, who sits at sixth in the points standings heading into Sunday’s race, made headlines of sorts for his media center comments on Friday. Almirola was asked if he found extra motivation in the fact that many media pundits projected him to be eliminated during the first round of the playoffs, and... well, he certainly found something.
“I don’t really care what anybody says or thinks because your guys’ opinion or anybody else’s opinion doesn’t make my race car go faster, and none of you sign my checks, so I don’t care,” Almirola said. “I think we hone in on what we do and we show up and put our head down and go to work, and some weekends it’s good enough to run up front and win, and some weekends it’s not.”
▪ Several cars struggled or sustained damage during the first Cup Series practice session Friday, the worst of which belonged to Austin Dillon. Dillon drove into the wall coming off the backstretch chicane and tore up his left front bumper, but he was hardly the only driver to struggle.
Denny Hamlin also took damage on that same stretch of the track, and on the frontstretch chicane Kyle Busch ended up driving through the grass. Bubba Wallace and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both spun out in the infield near Turn 3, as well.