Almirola takes Bristol pole in front row lockout for SHR

Aric Almirola ended more than a decade-long drought for Ford, winning the pole for Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

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Almirola, the second of the 10 drivers to qualify Friday night in the final round, posted an average lap speed of 128.382 mph to claim the top starting position.

Almirola withstood a stout challenge from fellow Ford driver Chase Briscoe, who ended up second (128.193 mph) as the final driver to qualify.

The last Ford driver to win a pole at Bristol was Greg Biffle for the spring race in March 2012.

“We had a really good (car) in practice. We ran, I think, 55 laps straight and I felt really good about it,” Almirola said. “We swapped over to (qualifying trim) and it still had a lot of speed.

“I’m really proud of the effort by this team. We were bummed out. We didn’t make the playoffs but we’re showing what we’re capable of – we can race with these guys. We’ll try to do it for 500 laps tomorrow night.”

Asked how he thought the track may change for the race, Almirola said, “The track just has a lot of grip and we’re just ripping right along the bottom (groove). There doesn’t seem to be a lot of speed off the bottom.

“Hopefully, that changes. It typically does throughout the course of the night when a lot of rubber gets laid down. But right now it seems like it will be right along the bottom.”

Alex Bowman ended up third, Denny Hamlin – who was fastest in practice – was fourth and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.

Completing the top-10 starting lineup are Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Brad Keselowski.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Time Gap Interval Mph
1 10 United States Aric Almirola Ford 14.946     128.382
2 14 United States Chase Briscoe Ford 14.968 0.022 0.022 128.193
3 48 United States Alex Bowman Chevrolet 14.970 0.024 0.002 128.176
4 11 United States Denny Hamlin Toyota 14.972 0.026 0.002 128.159
5 5 United States Kyle Larson Chevrolet 15.001 0.055 0.029 127.911
6 12 United States Ryan Blaney Ford 15.008 0.062 0.007 127.852
7 4 United States Kevin Harvick Ford 15.030 0.084 0.022 127.665
8 20 United States Christopher Bell Toyota 15.057 0.111 0.027 127.436
9 2 United States Austin Cindric Ford 15.078 0.132 0.021 127.258
10 6 United States Brad Keselowski Ford 15.083 0.137 0.005 127.216

Round 1 / Group B

Briscoe led a stout qualifying effort by Ford in Group B with an average lap speed of 128.399 mph, the fastest lap of the day at the time.

Fellow Ford driver Cindric was second-fastest (127.920 mph) and Hamlin was third (127.819 mph).

Also advancing to the final round were Ford drivers Keselowski and Harvick.

Among those who failed to advance from Group B were Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and William Byron.

Round 1 / Group A

Larson led the way in Group A with an average lap speed of 127.385 mph.

Blaney ended up second-fastest (126.938 mph) and Almirola was third (126.787 mph).

Bowman and Bell also advanced to the final round.

Among those who failed to advance were Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott.

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