Kyle Busch on pole at New Hampshire
14 July 2012
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."
Hamlin was without his crew chief Darian Grubb on Friday, who is still back at home celebrating the arrival of his second child earlier in the week. However, Grubb will be back at the race track in time for Sunday's event.
Hamlin will start alongside another Toyota-powered car on the second row of the grid, the Michael Waltrip Racing #56 entry driven by Martin Truex Jr.: "It wasn't a perfect lap," he shrugged. "We missed it just a little bit. I messed up a little and we made some changes to the car and messed it up some more. There was definitely more out there and I could have done a little bit better job."
His MWR team mate Clint Bowyer will start from fifth, making it four Toyotas in the top five positions at Loudon for tomorrow's race: "I just got in way too hard in one and got loose," said Bowyer afterwards. I had to wait on the throttle forever. I can't believe we ran that good. I felt like I blew it pretty bad."
Earlier in the single Friday practice session for the Cup drivers, Kyle Busch has set the fastest time ahead of Greg Biffle, but Biffle was unable to repeat that performance in the qualifying session and will start from 11th place instead.
"We had a really good car, but just ended up a little tight right there," he said, not sounding too dispirited. "My second lap was really good. I just got tight off of four and I didn't want to lift because I knew it would be the top of the board most likely, and I just ran out of real estate. I had to go for it because I knew a .66 wasn't good enough, so I just murdered one and two on the second lap and got into three and four good, it just got tight on exit. I thought I was gonna make it. It was close.”
Most of the remaining top ten places on the grid went to the leading Chase contenders, with Jimmie Johnson in seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in ninth and Tony Stewart in tenth. New father Kevin Harvick qualified in 12th place and will start alongside Biffle on the grid.
But current Cup championship points leader Matt Kenseth was only able to qualify in 27th place, and he wasn't happy.
“That was probably our worst lap of the day, but it hasn't been going very well," he admitted later. "This place has always been a struggle for us, especially in qualifying, so we'll just get through today and start working on it tomorrow."
Mike Bliss was the one car not to qualify on speed for the 43-car grid at Loudon, after he brushed the wall on his qualifying lap.
The Cup drivers get two more practice sessions on Saturday, with the race itself starting an noon local time on Sunday. The Nationwide Series is also racing at New Hampshire, with qualifying on Saturday morning and the FW Webb 200 race itself taking place in the afternoon.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is meanwhile competing at Iowa Speedway this weekend, with all practice and qualifying sessions taking place on Saturday afternoon and the American Ethanol 200 race itself being held under the floodlights in the evening.