Kurt Busch Leads Stewart-Haas Racing Dominance in NASCAR Qualifying at Talladega

Stewart-Haas Racing takes top-four starting spots for Sunday’s Cup Series Playoff event while Hendrick Motorsports nabs the next four.

© 2018 Rip Shaub. All Rights reserved

Kurt Busch claimed his first-career NASCAR Cup Series pole on a restrictor-plate track on Saturday when he posted a 48.906-second/195.804 miles per hour lap in the second of two rounds of qualifying at Talladega Motor Speedway.

“We’re on the pole. This is my first restrictor-plate pole ever. Ever,” Busch said. “It’s taken me 20 years but I got one.”

When he takes the green flag on Sunday for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 from P1, it’ll mark his fifth pole start of the season.

At a track where finding someone to work with is of utmost importance during racing, teammates are a popular theme on the starting grid for Sunday’s race. Busch will be joined on the front row by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, with teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola right behind them in row two.

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Kevin Harvick up front with teammates at Talladega.

Kevin Harvick practices his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 13, 2018.

“Doug Yates and those guys built so much quality power and you see it in four Stewart-Haas Fords,” Busch said of the Ford engines produced by Roush Yates Engines. “I’m really happy I got the fast one.”

Another quartet of teammates—Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, and William Byron—claimed the next four positions on the starting grid.

“It was an okay effort,” Elliott said of his top-five starting spot. “Those guys are, obviously, very fast and whatnot. It’s a good top-five starting spot. We’ll have a nice pit road selection. and that’s always encouraging. And, hopefully, we’ll stay out of the melee tomorrow.”

Ford has dominated victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway in recent years, with the manufacturer claiming wins in the last six races and in seven of the last eight. But that string of wins has been contributed to the Ford effort, primarily, by Team Penske, not Stewart-Haas Racing.

Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have combined to take five of those six most recent Ford wins; the other was a 2017 victory by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who advanced to the second round of qualifying to claim the 12th spot on the starting grid for Sunday’s race.

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Joey Logano starts mid-pack on Sunday

Joey Logano practices his No. 22 Team Penske Ford for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 13, 2018.

The Team Penske trio of Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, and Logano wound up in the back of the top-20 in qualifying, claiming starting spots 18th through 20th.

The final round of qualifying mirrored the top of the speed chart at the end of Round 1. Busch also was fastest in the opening round with a 49.051-second/195.225 mph lap, followed by his three teammates and then the four Hendrick drivers. The only difference was a swap in positions between Bowman and Johnson.

“These Hendrick Motorsports guys bring great superspeedway cars to the track,” Bowman said.  “I think it just shows how close everybody is at Hendrick Motorsports, how we all work together and how close the teams work together. The cars all get prepared together, so it’s cool to have them all right in a line. Obviously, wish it was a couple spots better. It would have been cool to be first through fourth, but we will take that and head into the race tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Obaika Racing hoped to make its Cup Series debut at Talladega with David Starr as its driver. Starr, though, was the slowest of the five drivers who had to depend on speed to claim one of the four staring spots available to teams without a charter.

1000BULBS.COM 500 STARTING LINEUP:
Row 1 -- Kurt Busch [No. 41 Ford], Clint Bowyer [No. 41 Ford]
Row 2 -- Kevin Harvick [No. 4 Ford], Aric Almirola [No. 10 Ford]
Row 3 -- Chase Elliott [No. 9 Chevrolet], Jimmie Johnson [No. 48 Chevrolet]
Row 4 -- Alex Bowman [No. 88 Chevrolet], William Byron [No. 24 Chevrolet]
Row 5 -- Kyle Busch [No. 18 Toyota], Denny Hamlin [No. 11 Toyota]
Row 6 -- Martin Truex Jr. [No. 78 Toyota], Ricky Stenhouse Jr. [No. 17 Ford]
Row 7 -- Daniel Suarez [No. 19 Toyota], Michael McDowell [No. 34 Ford]
Row 8 -- Erik Jones [No. 20 Toyota], David Ragan [No. 38 Ford]
Row 9 -- Darrell Wallace Jr. [No. 43 Chevrolet], Brad Keselowski [No. 2 Ford]
Row 10 -- Ryan Blaney [No. 12 Ford], Joey Logano [No. 22 Ford]
Row 11 -- Austin Dillon [No. 3 Chevrolet], Ryan Newman [No. 31 Chevrolet]
Row 12 -- A.J. Allmendinger [No. 47 Chevrolet], Trevor Bayne [No. 6 Ford]
Row 13 -- Regan Smith [No. 95 Chevrolet], Chris Buescher [No. 37 Chevrolet]
Row 14 -- Matt DiBenedetto [No. 32 Ford], Brendan Gaughan [No. 62 Chevrolet]
Row 15 -- Ty Dillon [No. 13 Chevrolet], Paul Menard [No. 21 Ford]
Row 16 -- Jamie McMurray [No. 1 Chevrolet], J.J. Yeley [No. 23 Ford]
Row 17 -- D.J. Kennington [No. 7 Chevrolet], Kyle Larson [No. 42 Chevrolet]
Row 18 -- Jeffrey Earnhardt [No. 96 Toyota], Ross Chastain [No. 15 Chevrolet]
Row 19 -- Joey Gase [No. 00 Chevrolet], Landon Cassill [No. 99 Chevrolet]
Row 20 -- Corey LaJoie [No. 72 Chevrolet], Cody Ware [No. 51 Ford]

GREEN FLAG: The 1000Bulbs.com 500 is slated for an approximate 2 p.m. ET start. The race will air live on NBC.