Kyle Busch will start Sunday afternoon's LENOX Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race from pole position after setting an unbeatable time of 28.548s (133.417mph) on the final run of qualifying on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway one-mile oval on Friday afternoon.
Busch revealed afterwards that this first pole position of 2012 had been a narrow margin between qualifying glory and disaster near the end.
"One and two, I felt like I just didn't finish the throttle as well as I needed it to," he said. "Down in three and four, I got back to the gas early, but then tried to put it down sooner and that's what drove me out to the wall
"I don't think we touched; I didn't feel it, so if anything it was really, really close," he said of his near-miss at the end. "I just knew that I got in the throttle really early in three and four trying to make speed and was able to finish it, but the car slipped right at the last second. When you get to that older asphalt, it seems like this tyre is different than the older tyre where you lose just a touch of grip. Slid out right to the cushion part you would say. There's no mark on the car so all is good there."
An incredibly tight session saw Busch set a time only 0.003s faster than Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne, with Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin beaten back into third by just one thousands of a second.
"I was right on the edge the whole lap of being just a little too free," said Kahne of his run. "But I was able to make it work. In the final corner I tried getting one more lap, which it didn't seem like anybody was going faster the second lap, but I still tried and got too loose there and just pulled it in. It was still a solid lap. It was really close. As far as the times, everybody is really close, but I'm glad my car feels great."
Asked if he'd had anything left to challenge Busch and Kahne for the front row, Hamlin indicated where he could have made up time: "Maybe I could have squeezed four-thousandths out of it somehow. It's awful tight up front there," he pointed out. "You're just really on the edge all the time and I said after I got out of the car that was pretty much all it had speed-wise — you would have to be tighter to be faster."
Hamlin sat out last week's Nationwide Series race at Daytona and also skipped some of the Cup practice sessions because of back spasms after the previous race at Kentucky Speedway, but he said that he was now over that problem.
"My back is pretty good. It feels today as if it would any day," he said. "When I had those back spasms in the past, it was about a week worth of pain that I had to deal with, but really just have to focus on my exercises just to do the things to prevent it. Back spasms come and go — obviously, last week was a bad week for it. Other than that, everything is good."