Bristol, TN – Kyle Busch claimed the pole for the Food City 500 after breaking a decade-old track qualifying record at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday.
With NASCAR's new Sprint Cup Series race car, the Gen-6, making its short- track debut at Bristol, Busch ran a lap at 129.535 mph around this 0.533-mile, high-banked oval. His lap surpassed the old record of 128.709 mph, set by Ryan Newman in March 2003.
Busch, who drives the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, claimed his 11th career pole in the series.
"This whole Joe Gibbs Racing team has done a great job," he said. "(Crew chief) Dave (Rogers) and all the guys unloaded with a really good race car. We just kept fine-tuning on the (car) to make it a little bit better, and we were able to get to where it was pretty quick in practice. We thought we would have a shot for the pole, but we thought that many times here before and ended up 30th or something."
Busch has won five Sprint Cup Series races at this track, but it was his first pole here in 17 starts.
"Certainly starting up front here at Bristol can mean good things, but it doesn't always work that way," he added. "I've won plenty of races here starting at the back."
Kasey Kahne earned the outside pole with a lap at 128.995 mph, while Denny Hamlin, who is Busch's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, grabbed the third spot after posting a lap at 128.960 mph. Kahne and Hamlin topped Newman's record as well.
"The car was balanced really nice," Kahne said. "We had to work on it a lot in practice, getting it where it needed to be, and it should be a good race on Sunday. I'm looking forward to it. I really like how the car has driven so far today."
Hamlin revealed on Thursday that he will not appeal the $25,000 fine that he received from NASCAR last week for making derogatory comments about the Gen-6 car following the conclusion of the March 3 race at Phoenix. He remains firm in his intentions to not pay the fine. Per its rule book, NASCAR will deduct that amount from his race winnings this season.
Earlier on Friday, Hamlin spoke more about his decision to drop the appeal. Hamlin said he believes that NASCAR "overreacted" by penalizing him for the comments made about the new car.
Hamlin also noted that he wants to put incident behind him and focus on racing again.
"To really have everything behind you is obviously a relief, and really for my team's sake, we need to focus on running as good as we can and trying to make this Chase," Hamlin said. "So any distraction is something that you don't need, especially when the competition is so close you just can't afford anything that hampers your ability to go win, so this is going to be a step in the right direction for us."
Brian Vickers, who is driving the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing this weekend, qualified fourth. Mark Martin was behind the wheel of the No. 55 car at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas, but Martin is taking his first week off during his partial schedule this season.
Jamie McMurray was sixth, followed by Brad Keselowski, who is the defending series champion and winner of last year's spring race at Bristol. Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano completed the top-10.
Jimmie Johnson, the current points leader, qualified 13th. Johnson holds a five-point advantage over Keselowski. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is 10 points out of the lead, will start 32nd.
Danica Patrick will start 41st after her lap at 124.638 mph. Since winning the pole for last month's season-opening Daytona 500, Patrick has struggled in qualifying. Patrick qualified 40th at Phoenix two weeks ago. She crashed late in that race and ended up finishing 39th. Last week's qualifying at Las Vegas was rained out. Patrick started 37th and finished six laps behind in 33rd there.
This will be the second time Patrick competes in a Sprint Cup race at Bristol. She started 43rd and finished 29th in the night race here last August.
Scott Riggs was the only driver who failed to qualify for Sunday's 500-lap race at Bristol, which is scheduled to start just after 1 p.m. ET.