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Qualifying report
NASCAR Cup Atlanta II

Almirola grabs pole as Fords dominate Atlanta Cup qualifying

Stewart-Haas Racing's Aric Almirola led a fleet of Fords in qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway.

Just like earlier this year at Atlanta when the Fords absolutely dominated qualifying (and later the race), they looked to be very fast once again this weekend.

Eight of the ten cars fighting for pole position were driving Fords. Ty Gibbs was the only Toyota driver and Kyle Larson was the only Chevrolet.

Larson got a little sideways during the final round after hitting a bump on the frontstretch, costing himself a couple hundredths.

Halfway through the round, Almirola was fastest of all with over a tenth between himself and the next car on the timing sheets.

Ryan Blaney, who was quickest in the first round, very nearly eclipsed him, but ended up 0.014s shy of the top spot.

The pole was the fourth of Almirola's career and his first of the 2023 season. Ford drivers locked out the first three rows on the grid.

Chase Briscoe qualified third, followed by Spring Atlanta winner Joey Logano, Harrison Burton, Kevin Harvick, Ty Gibbs, Kyle Larson, Todd Gilliland, and Austin Cindric.

"I thought the car drove decent the first round, but it looked like a lot of guys were having a hard time," said Almirola.

"My Ford Mustang drove really good. Just needed a little more speed and (crew chief Drew Blickensderfer) made a few adjustments and that second round, we had the speed we needed. Just really proud of Drew and all the guys on this race team. Everybody back at Stewart-Haas Racing.

"We've been working so hard to get our cars where they need to be. So just proud of everybody's effort and work. Thank you to Doug Yates and everybody at Roush-Yates engine shop. You need a lot of horsepower when you come to a place where you run wide open. Just proud of everybody. We're gonna lead the field to the green, but hopefully we can finish there on Sunday."

Round 1

Several drivers struggled over the bumps through Turns 1 and 2 with Alex Bowman having a wiggle that shot him up the track. He ended up being slowest of all drivers who put down a lap, qualifying 36th.

Christopher Bell nearly spun out of Turn 2, going onto the apron as the rear-end stepped out on him. 

Bubba Wallace nearly caught the wall on his up-to-speed lap, bailing before even setting a time. He said afterwards: "Just really, really loose. A feeling I've never had before so I brought it in so we didn't tear up a good Toyota Camry. Found out what the issue was. Frustrating, but we'll fix it."

He did not wish to disclose the source of the issue, and will start 37th on Sunday.

Blaney was fastest of all drivers at 177.164mph. He led Briscoe, Logano, Burton, Gibbs, Almirola, Harvick, Gilliland, Larson, and Cindric as the drivers who advanced.

Brad Keselowski was sitting on the bubble late in the session, but was bumped out by Larson.

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