Rookies Reign at Gateway: Briscoe Earns First Career Pole

Rookies Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric will start from the front row tomorrow in the first Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in St Louis.
Rookies Reign at Gateway: Briscoe Earns First Career Pole

Tomorrow marks the first Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway. It is also a season of "firsts" so it is only natural that a pair of rookies qualified on the front row today in St Louis. Chase Briscoe earned his first career Cup Series pole, with Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric joining him on the front row for tomorrow's race.

"The first round I felt like I under drove it extremely bad and in the second round I overdrove," Briscoe said. "I got really loose getting into Turn 3 and felt like I gave away what advantage I had in Turns 1 and 2. It’s a testament to these guys, they did a really good job of bringing a really good race car. We were obviously really good at Phoenix and have a pretty close package to that, so we’ll see if we can have the same result as Phoenix. We’ve got the best starting spot for that. I’m looking forward to tomorrow."

Row 2 also features a pair of talented young drivers in Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin will share Row 3 with Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Harrison Burton, and Ross Chastain rounding out the top ten starters. Ford appears to have the speed but Toyota isn't too far behind. Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr all just missed the final round of qualifying to fight for the pole.

Chevrolet has some work to do in order to level up to Ford and Toyota. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will be starting in Row 8 tomorrow and their teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman start back in 24th and 25th tomorrow.

Rookies Reign at Gateway: Briscoe Earns First Career Pole

Logano was fastest in Friday's practice, and has taken to this track like a duck to water. “I’ve missed it,” he said when thinking about his Xfinity start when he led 42 laps driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. “This is a fun racetrack. It was already fun out there, and memories are coming back from 2008 and the track is a fair amount smoother than it used to be. Turns 1 and 2 are one of the best corners in our sport."

The 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval has been compared to Phoenix, which Logano talked about. “There are also some differences,” he said. “You have a flat, long corner at Phoenix, and a banked corner in Phoenix, even though the shape is a triangle, and this is a true oval. The way the corners are laid out, there are some similarities there. You are definitely slowing down a lot more in 1 and 2 here than you do at 3 and 4 in Phoenix.”

The three Team Penske drivers are hoping to turn things around for The Captain. Combined, they have just one top-ten finish in the last five points races. Each one of them also crashed out of the race last weekend at Charlotte. All three qualified inside the top ten, giving them a great chance to capitalize on the opportunity to win tomorrow.

Truex won the Xfinity race here in 2004 and will be making his 600th career Cup start tomorrow. He is still searching for his first win of the season, and Richard Petty is the only driver that was able to win in his 600th race. Truex had a decent qualifying run and will start 13th but remains uncertain of his future in the series.

"I think about it every day," Truex admitted. "We’re working on it. I should know something soon. It’s a big decision and a lot of factors. I would say within a couple weeks, you guys will know what I’m doing. Everybody asks me, but I still don’t have any news. I’ll let you know when I find out."

Hamlin collected his seventh Crown Jewel victory last weekend in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, but it was not without controversy. During a pit stop in the race, Hamlin clipped a member of Logano's pit crew. Logano called it a "dirty move" but Hamlin says he did not know that he had made contact with the crew member at the time of the incident.

"We changed the way we do our pit stops to try to allow Hamlin to not clip our guys," Logano said on Friday. "The changer’s down on the ground with his back to the car and gets his heels run over. I don’t think there’s any reason for it, because he had an opening out. So I think that’s just a dirty move. I think there needs to be a penalty for it and a rule made for it to protect our pit crews."

Hamlin didn't necessarily agree with Logano's assessment but after reviewing the video, Hamlin did take blame for the incident. “I have since reviewed the video. I was wrong. Definitely my fault. I cut in 22 box way too far.”

Zane Smith is making his Cup debut tomorrow in the No. 17 Ford Mustang for RFK Racing. Chris Buescher is unable to drive this weekend because of a positive COVID test. The full-time Camping World Truck Series driver qualified 32nd today as he prepares for a unique weekend of double duty.

Rookies Reign at Gateway: Briscoe Earns First Career Pole

"I was kind of on eggshells, especially with how these cars drive," Smith said. "They’re a lot different than anything I’ve ever driven before. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn a lot and that’s my goal. I’ve just been talking to everybody. The Cup garage, there is so much info that these guys are able to see and so much data. That’s been the biggest difference. You work all your life to get in this garage, and I’m just lucky to be here. To have this opportunity means everything."

Coverage for the Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway begins at 3:30 ET on FS1.

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