Kyle Larson was not the Chevrolet most were watching at Dover but perhaps they should have.
Larson was the first out in the last two rounds of knockout qualifying and blistered the field in both, using an average lap speed of 158.103 mph to win the pole for Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Kevin Harvick came closest to catching Larson, with an average speed of 157.494 mph in the final session. Martin Truex Jr. was third (157.432 mph). Kyle Busch was fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top-five.
The pole is the first of the season for Larson, fifth of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and first at Dover.
“I felt like I nailed that last lap pretty good, all the way from coming to the green to getting through (Turns) 1 and 2 really good,” Larson said. “(Turns) 3 and 4, I may have left a little out there – I got in there pretty hot and up the track.
“I planned to move up the race track each round. The first round caught me off guard a little bit. I was really loose getting in but then we made some adjustments throughout the next two rounds. The second round we were probably a little too tight and we kind of found a happy medium there in the final round.
“I’ve always qualified well here but had yet to get a pole. I’ve always raced well here but we have yet to get a win. Maybe we’ll get both this weekend.”
The remainder of the Top 12 starters: Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer.
Seven-time series champion and 11-time winner at Dover, Jimmie Johnson, will line up 19th.
Larson was the first to go out in the second round and his average lap speed of 157.432 mph held up the rest of the session, and was the fastest of the day to this point.
Elliott was second (157.267 mph) and Suarez ended up third (157.068 mph). Stenhouse was fourth and Harvick completed the top-five.
Also advancing to the final round were Truex, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, Hamlin, Keselowski and Jones.
Aric Almirola just missed the cutoff and ended up 13th. Among the others who failed to advance were Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Johnson and William Byron.
“We were just tight. We were loose on entry in the first round and tight on exit so we tried to do something to fix it and ended up tight overall,” Blaney said. “I probably didn’t do the best job, either.”
Kyle Busch led the way in the first 15-minute session of qualifying as most drivers waited several minutes before attempting to make a run, with temperatures soaring near 90 degrees.
Busch’s top average lap speed was 157.116 mph. He just ended Keselowski (156.883 mph), who ended up second, and Truex (156.678 mph) who was third.
Hamlin ended fourth and Blaney completed the top-five.
Among those who failed to advance to Round 2 were Kasey Kahne (who actually tied for 24th, the final transfer spot), Darrell Wallace Jr., Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon and A.J. Allmendinger.
“I love coming here and putting on a good show and having a good run and it’s a bummer where we ended up,” Wallace said. “We knew the track was going to slow down. Just frustrated with how much speed we actually had and it wasn’t good enough.”
Kahne and Ryan Newman tied on their initial list and tied again on the second laps. Since Newman is higher in points, he transferred to Round 2.
“It’s his lucky day,” Kahne said. “It’s for 24th, we’re still not talking about a very good position. It was really tight. We have some work to do. I look forward to practice tomorrow and trying to get better for the race.”
Corey LaJoie was the only driver not to participate in the first round of qualifying as his team was still preparing his car after it blew an engine in the final minutes of Friday’s practice session.
|3||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||22.867||0.097||157.432|
|5||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||22.929||0.159||157.006|
|26||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||23.345||0.575||154.209|