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Qualifying report
NASCAR Cup Darlington II

JGR locks out front row for Southern 500 with Bell on pole

If Christopher Bell was entering the NASCAR Cup playoffs as “underrated,” he certainly won’t be now.

Bell, who was fastest in Saturday’s practice, capped the day by winning the pole for Saturday night’s playoff opener at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Bell led a Toyota rebound from a poor qualifying performance in the Darlington spring race, topping the final round with an average speed of 169.193 mph, just edging his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (169.042 mph).

The pole is Bell’s third this season, with all coming in the last eight races. It’s also the seventh of his career for the driver of the No. 20 Toyota.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Bell said. “My guys have done an amazing job giving me the balance I need to go out here and do it. We definitely got a gift being in Group A, we’ve seen that since this car came out and this format came out.

“I wasn’t sure it enough but being in Group 1 and getting the tires a little bit cooler this (car) on the front row.”

Asked during Playoff Media Day earlier this week if he felt underrated entering the playoffs, Bell said, “I hope so, because I don’t feel like I’m rated very highly.

“That’s fine. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Hamlin said being in the second group doesn’t give competitors to get their tires cooled down, but Saturday’s qualifying effort was a “a big gain over where we were in the spring.”

Fellow Toyota driver Tyler Reddick was third fastest (168.972 mph) while Ford drivers Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.

Completing the top-10 starting lineup are Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola, the only non-playoff driver in the top-10.

This is the first time since 1982 that a Chevrolet won’t start inside the top 10 in a Cup race at Darlington.

The rest of the playoff field will line up as follows: Kyle Busch (11th), Kyle Larson (18th), Bubba Wallace (19th), William Byron (23rd), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (25th), Ross Chastain (27th) and top seed Martin Truex Jr. will start 31st.

Truex got extremely loose in Turns 3 and 4 during his final round qualifying lap and nearly hit the wall.

 

Round 1 / Group A

Bell, who was fastest in Saturday’s practice, kept up the pace and led the way in Group A with an average lap speed of 169.660 mph.

Keselowski – the last car to go out – was second quick (169.118 mph) and Harvick was third (168.118 mph).

Also advancing to the final round were Almirola and McDowell.

Among those who failed to advance were Larson, Byron, Stenhouse and Chastain.

Cla Driver # Manufacturer Laps Time Interval Mph
1 United StatesCHRISTOPHER BELLJoe Gibbs Racing 20 Toyota 1 28.985   169.660
2 United StatesBRAD KESELOWSKIRFK Racing 6 Ford 1 +0.093 0.093 169.118
3 United StatesKEVIN HARVICKStewart-Haas Racing 4 Ford 1 +0.170 0.077 168.671
4 United StatesARIC ALMIROLAStewart-Haas Racing 10 Ford 1 +0.176 0.006 168.636
5 United StatesMICHAEL MCDOWELLFront Row Motorsports 34 Ford 1 +0.192 0.016 168.544
6
TY GIBBSJoe Gibbs Racing
54 Toyota 1 +0.207 0.015 168.457
7 United StatesKYLE LARSONHendrick Motorsports 5 Chevrolet 1 +0.215 0.008 168.411
8 United StatesERIK JONESLegacy Motor Club 43 Chevrolet 1 +0.230 0.015 168.324
9 United StatesCOREY LAJOIESpire Motorsports 7 Chevrolet 1 +0.267 0.037 168.112
10 United StatesWILLIAM BYRONHendrick Motorsports 24 Chevrolet 1 +0.271 0.004 168.089
11 United StatesRICKY STENHOUSE JRJTG Daugherty Racing 47 Chevrolet 1 +0.314 0.043 167.842
12 United StatesTY DILLONSpire Motorsports 77 Chevrolet 1 +0.321 0.007 167.802
13 United StatesROSS CHASTAINTrackHouse Racing 1 Chevrolet 1 +0.352 0.031 167.625
14 United StatesHARRISON BURTONWood Brothers Racing 21 Ford 1 +0.492 0.140 166.828
15 United StatesJJ YELEYRick Ware Racing 15 Ford 1 +0.493 0.001 166.823
16 United StatesRYAN PREECEStewart-Haas Racing 41 Ford 1 +0.589 0.096 166.281
17 United StatesRYAN NEWMANRick Ware Racing 51 Ford 1 +0.726 0.137 165.514
18 United StatesBJ MCLEODLive Fast Motorsports 78 Chevrolet 1 +1.004 0.278 163.980

Round 1 / Group B

Reddick set a blistering pace in the second group, leading the way with an average speed of 170.750 mph.

“Track position is critical the first pit stall is a big advantage,” Reddick said. “We need to close this one out.’

Blaney ended up second fastest (170.336 mph) and Hamlin was third (170.118 mph).

Also advancing to the final round were Logano and Buescher.

Among those who failed to advance Busch, Wallace and Truex.

Cla Driver # Manufacturer Laps Time Interval Mph
1 United StatesTYLER REDDICK23XI Racing 45 Toyota 1 28.800   170.750
2 United StatesRYAN BLANEYTeam Penske 12 Ford 1 +0.070 0.070 170.336
3 United StatesDENNY HAMLINJoe Gibbs Racing 11 Toyota 1 +0.107 0.037 170.118
4 United StatesJOEY LOGANOTeam Penske 22 Ford 1 +0.124 0.017 170.018
5 United StatesCHRIS BUESCHERRFK Racing 17 Ford 1 +0.144 0.020 169.900
6 United StatesKYLE BUSCHRichard Childress Racing 8 Chevrolet 1 +0.230 0.086 169.397
7 United StatesCHASE BRISCOEStewart-Haas Racing 14 Ford 1 +0.234 0.004 169.374
8 United StatesCHASE ELLIOTTHendrick Motorsports 9 Chevrolet 1 +0.295 0.061 169.019
9 United StatesAUSTIN CINDRICTeam Penske 2 Ford 1 +0.308 0.013 168.943
10
CARSON HOCEVARLegacy Motor Club
42 Chevrolet 1 +0.354 0.046 168.677
11 United StatesAJ ALLMENDINGERKaulig Racing 16 Chevrolet 1 +0.368 0.014 168.596
12 United StatesBUBBA WALLACE23XI Racing 23 Toyota 1 +0.406 0.038 168.376
13 MexicoDANIEL SUAREZTrackHouse Racing 99 Chevrolet 1 +0.436 0.030 168.204
14 United StatesALEX BOWMANHendrick Motorsports 48 Chevrolet 1 +0.484 0.048 167.928
15 United StatesAUSTIN DILLONRichard Childress Racing 3 Chevrolet 1 +0.610 0.126 167.208
16 United StatesJUSTIN HALEYKaulig Racing 31 Chevrolet 1 +0.647 0.037 166.998
17 United StatesTODD GILLILANDFront Row Motorsports 38 Ford 1 +0.652 0.005 166.970
18 United StatesMARTIN TRUEX JRJoe Gibbs Racing 19 Toyota 1 +0.662 0.010 166.913

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