Kurt Busch was fast enough to win the pole but more importantly, he went out early enough.
Five of the 12 drivers in the final round of group qualifying Friday failed to post a speed when Denny Hamlin’s spin with 39 seconds left brought an early end to the five-minute session.
Busch had already gone out and his average lap speed at 177.599 mph was good enough to surpass Carl Edwards (177.550 mph) and earn the top starting position in Sunday’s Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Busch wasn’t one of the fastest cars in practice – he was 21st-fastest - but he said in qualifying the team reverted back to the set-up he used at the track last season with his former crew chief, Daniel Knost.
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The pole is Busch’s third this season and the 19th of his Sprint Cup Series career.
‘What a day, today. I feel like there are six corners out there as hard as I was working; corner entry, corner exit,” he said. “The car was just off-balance, especially with the new bumps in Turn 2.”
Martin Truex Jr., who’s led the most laps in the last three races, qualified third, Jeff Gordon was fourth and Kevin Harvick was fifth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won both Pocono races last season, will line up 20th.
Harvick adds Truck race
Harvick, the reigning Cup series champion, will enter the Aug. 1 Truck series race at Pocono, driving the No. 00 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, the team confirmed to the Observer.
Harvick last competed in the series in 2013, when he ran both races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for NTS Motorsports. His most recent win in the series came in 2012 at Martinsville.
JRM is fielding the No. 00 for the first time this season. Rookie Cole Custer is running 10 of the races with a handful of other races run with a variety of drivers.
Childers signs contract extension
Rodney Childers, Harvick’s crew chief in the Cup series, has agreed to a contract extension that will keep him with Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2020 season, the organization announced.
In his inaugural season as Harvick’s crew chief, Childers and the No. 4 Chevrolet team won five races, won eight roles and led 2,137 laps en route to the duo’s first championship.
“Rodney Childers and Kevin Harvick set a new standard of excellence in 2014 that they’ve carried into this season,” said SHR team co-owner, Tony Stewart. “Keeping Rodney and Kevin together was a high priority, and we’re obviously very happy to have the two of them at Stewart-Haas Racing for many years to come.”
Gordon commits to cancer research
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Gordon has personally committed to match all funds raised – up to $100,000 – through Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation “Kick-It” events held during the month of September.
Kick-It, a program and partner of the foundation, is a national volunteer driven effort focused solely on raising money for children’s cancer research through kick-ball games and peer-to-peer fundraising events.
Keselowski, Logano with movie roles
Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have cameo appearances in SyFy Channel’s movie, “Sharknado 3,” which will be released next month.
Among the other celebrities making appearances are David Hasselhoff, Jerry Springer, Michelle Beadle, Ryan Kerrigan and former WWE star Chris Jericho.
Baby Bayne on the way
Cup driver Trevor Bayne announced on his Twitter account this week that he and his wife, Ashton, are expecting their first child. The couple were married in 2013.