Considering the previous instance he thought he had won a pole until NASCAR later disallowed his time due to a technical violation, Kyle Busch was understandably muted in celebrating setting the fastest speed (138.387 mph) in qualifying Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.
But no such violations were found on Busch's No. 18 Toyota Friday, meaning he will start first in Sunday's Good Sam 500. He will lead a brigade of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers with teammates Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin qualifying second and third, respectively.
The pole is Busch's first of the season and 18th of his career. He had provisionally won the pole for the Feb. 28 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway until failing post-qualifying inspection for a minor violation, forcing him to start last.
"Real pleased with the effort of this whole team," Busch said. "All the guys did a great job. Our JGR Camrys were really fast so thanks to Toyota, (Toyota Racing Development) and all of these guys."
Kurt Busch, Kyle's older brother, and Jimmie Johnson completed the top five qualifiers. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse completed the top 10.
Johnson, however, will have to forfeit his position after an apparent mechanical failure caused him to veer nearly head-on into the outside wall while trying to record another lap in Round 3. The six-time Cup Series champion escaped injury, but his Chevrolet was severely damaged and he will switch to a backup for Sunday. He later tweeted that the steering wheel came off, which is what caused him to lose control and turn suddenly while at speed.
"Just a really hard impact to the outside wall," Johnson said.
Johnson will not be the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver starting at the tail of the 39-car field. Teammate Kasey Kahne, who had posted the sixth-fastest speed in Round 1, suffered an engine failure in the second session causing his car to smoke heavily. Because of the engine change, Kahne forfeits his starting position (24th).
Phoenix maestro Kevin Harvick, who's won five of the past seven races on the 1-mile desert track, uncharacteristically struggled, posting just the 18th-fastest time.
All 39 drivers entered qualified and will race Sunday.
Good Sam 500 starting lineup
|8||Martin Truex, Jr.||Toyota||136.934|
|10||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||136.752|
|26||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||135.527|