Busch's hot streak continues with California pole

Kurt Busch shouldn't be surprised to sit on the California pole. The way he's been running lately, no one else is. Busch took advantage of some cloud cover late in the day and laid down a fast lap time of 182.40 miles per hour to claim his ...

Kurt Busch shouldn't be surprised to sit on the California pole. The way he's been running lately, no one else is.

Busch took advantage of some cloud cover late in the day and laid down a fast lap time of 182.40 miles per hour to claim his first Bud Pole Award of the season. He edged Jimmie Johnson by .001 seconds and will lead the field to the green for Sunday's Sharp AQUOS 500.

"I thought we had a top-10 car, but I didn't know we had a shot at the pole," said Busch, who is coming off a pair of wins in the past four weeks. "It turned out pretty good for us."

Busch has top 11 finishes in the past seven races and used that surge to grab the 12th and final spot for the Chase for the Championship. He is looking for solid finishes in the final two races before the Chase to lock up his spot in the season-ending playoff.

Busch said that he wasn't sure what to expect out of his car today, but trusted his crew to give him a good piece.

"We just kind of guessed at this and guessed at that and the car turned out to be perfect," said Busch, who last sat on the pole last October in at Martinsville. "I've got to thank the crew on that one. It feels good."

Johnson has blasted out of a mid-season slump to pick up top finishes in three of the past four races. He is already locked into the Chase, but hopes to continue his momentum this week in his home state.

"We've got a great car," said Johnson, who has his best starting spot since winning the pole at Richmond in May. "I'm very proud of the car and proud of the effort. It's disappointing to come that close, but it was a great effort."

Kasey Kahne qualified third, grabbing his fifth top-5 starting spot in the past six races. He is looking to follow up a strong second place race last week at Bristol.

Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. trails Busch by 158 points for the final spot in the Chase and knows that he needs two great races to even have a shot at the championship. He qualified seventh.

"Everybody wants to talk about the points and what we plan to do to make the Chase," Earnhardt said. "You know, we're going to do what we've been doing all year: go out and try to win the race. It's all we can do. We're far enough behind where the point standings are out of our control, so we just need to focus on extending our win streak."

Juan Montoya will start at the back of the field after his engine expired during his qualifying attempt.

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Kyle Busch