Busch’s fast lap of 27.357 seconds at 197.300 mph edged Jeff Gordon for the Charlotte pole by just 24/1000ths of a second. It was his third pole of the 2014 season and the 16th of his career. Denny Hamlin will start third Saturday night, followed by Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.
Busch did not record the fastest lap of the night, however. That honor belonged to elder brother Kurt Busch who shattered Hamlin’s track record with a lap at 198.771 mph in the second of two qualifying rounds. Kurt was only 11th-fastest in the final go-round, however, on a night when 21 drivers bested Hamlin’s previous track record of 195.624 mph, set in May of last season.
“It seemed like the guy that was the most consistent was able to win the pole tonight,” said Kyle Busch afterward. “I think we had a 27.38, then a .33 and then a .36 -- so (those were) pretty good laps there. We'll see how this weekend goes, and hopefully we can come out of here with a solid weekend and put ourselves in the right spot for continuing on in our Chase.”
Busch comes to Charlotte second in the championship standings, just six points behind leader Joey Logano. Thursday night qualifying was not kind to a pair of Chase contenders badly in need of a strong performance. Brad Keselowski was only 17th-fastest Thursday, but expressed confidence in his race set-up.
“We’ve been off a little bit in qualifying trim since we’ve been here,” he admitted, “but I thought our race trim was really good in practice. That’s the most important thing, so we’ll keep working.”
Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson struggled to find speed for the second consecutive week, and will start 21st Saturday night.
“(We) just didn’t have the speed on that final run,” said Johnson, who stands 11th in points and – like Keselowski -- is in danger of being eliminated from title contention next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. “I thought we had some hope after the first round… but (we) just didn’t have any more through Turns 3 and 4. I had to let off a little bit so I didn’t get into the outside wall. It’s disappointing.”
Kasey Kahne qualified 19th, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. ninth.