CLICK: Full Sprint Cup qualifying results from New Hampshire
Kyle Busch clinched his second pole of the season and his 15th pole in 348 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races ahead of this weekend's Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at Loudon.
Busch set a new a track qualifying record lap of 27.574s (138.130mph) on the one-mile oval, eclipsing the previous record set last September by Ryan Newman with a laptime of 27.904s (136.497mph), making it the the 13th track qualifying record set so far in nineteen races in 2014.
Busch hadn't even thought the lap had been quite fast enough while he was running: "Lap felt good. It didn't feel that good, but it felt good," he said. "I thought was was a little bit tight but I guess I was driving through it enough that it was still carrying good speed," adding that he had given everything that he had.
Busch pipped Jimmie Johnson by 0.068s in the second and final round of qualifying on Friday afternoon, meaning that the Hendrick Motorsport #48 will line up alongside the Joe Gibbs Racing #18 on the front row for the start of Sunday's race.
"It's so tough to get a good lap around here," lamented Johnson. "The first outing put up a decent time fastest of the day for ourselves still knew that we had to go faster and to come out for the second session on older tyres and improve by over two tenths is something to be proud of.
"Of course we want to get the pole, want to be faster, but Kyle found a little bit more out there than us," he admitted. "[But] we feel really good about our Lowe's Chevrolet. We did some race runs to start practice off. The car was right where we wanted it based on our test session here a month ago and [qualifying] trim went really well too.
"This helps make the weekend so much easier to race," he added. "You get a good pit stall pick, good track position and you can fine tune from here. Hopefully we will be able to fine tune and make a race winning car."
Busch's team mate Denny Hamlin will start from third place having topped the first round of qualifying. Joining him on the second row of the grid will be Tony Stewart, while the third row will consist of Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano; for Logano it's a significant bounce back after having crashed the #22 Penske Ford in the earlier practice session.
"We will take it," he said. "I kind of feel like I hurt our team a little when I messed up my first qualifying run locking up the left front into three and I went way up the race track and had to make the second run. I don't think the third run was any better with tyres. Knowing that, it frustrates me."
As for the earlier accident that had sent him to the backup car for the rest of the weekend: "We had a left rear tyre go down there. The same exact thing happened in this race last year. I wasn't even close to saving that. I needed about 500 more yards of straightaway to save that one.
"It is a bummer. I felt like our car was pretty good. It wasn't great but we were getting closer and I felt like we were a top-five car. Hopefully the [secondary] is just as good. Team Penske does a great job of making these cars consistent so I am not too worried about it."
Logano starts one place ahead of his team mate Brad Keselowski, who is joined on the fourth row by Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer. The other drivers to make it through to the top 12 pole shootout were Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.
Narrowly missing out on making it through to the final round of qualifying were Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard. Kurt Busch will start from 18th place one ahead of last week's surprise race winner Aric Almirola, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the only Hendrick car not to to make it through to the second row as he is set to line-up in 28th place one ahead of Danica Patrick.
"Disappointing. Slow. No excuse," he posted on Twitter afterwards. "Sometimes your [sic] gonna run like crap. Best be on Friday and not Sunday. Will see what speed we have tomorrow."
Last week's surprise pole winner David Gilliland landed back in reality with a bump with a 33rd place grid position. With 43 cars entered for this week's event, all drivers qualified for the starting grid.
Full Sprint Cup qualifying results from New Hampshire