BRISTOL, Tenn. — Count Kyle Busch among those who likes NASCAR’s new race car.
Of course, a new track record is bound to draw praise from any driver.
Busch won his first career pole at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday with a lap in his Toyota at 129.535 mph, breaking Ryan Newman’s 10-year-old track record of 128.709.
“This new car, I like driving it because you can drive it like the older car we had years ago where you could just abuse it a little bit and drive it a little harder,” Busch said. “The old car was all about being smooth and precise and this one here, you can make a little bit more speed by trying a little bit harder.”
Busch tried hard enough Friday to shred the mark set by Newman, who had been the first driver to go under 15 seconds when he set the lap record. Busch was one of nine drivers to go under 15 seconds in qualifying and his time of 14.813 is the new record.
Still, he wasn’t sure it would stand. A five-time Bristol winner, Busch had never qualified higher than ninth at the Tennessee bullring.
“We felt we’d have a shot for the pole, but we’ve felt that many times before and we’ve ended up 30th or something,” said the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Kasey Kahne qualified second in a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports with a lap at 128.995 and felt like he had a shot at beating Busch’s mark.
“I knew Kyle had put down a great lap and a track record, so I knew I had to go pretty hard,” Kahne said. “I just felt like I may have given up a little bit in (turns) 1 and 2, which would have made it really close for the pole.”
Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin was third at 128.960 and said Sunday could be a good race at Bristol.
“I think we’re going to see one of the best races we’ve ever seen in a long time here,” Hamlin.
That’s an about-face for Hamlin, who was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for criticizing the new Gen-6 car. He’s refusing to pay, but said he won’t appeal the penalty and NASCAR will collect the money from his race winnings. He addressed his decision not to appeal earlier Friday, and his qualifying run later allowed him to finally change the subject back to racing.
“To have everything behind me is obviously a relief,” Hamlin said. “And just for my team’s sake, we need to focus on running as good as we can and trying to make this Chase. Any distractions is something you don’t need especially when the competition is so close. You just can’t afford anything that hampers your ability to go win, so this is going to be a step in the right direction for us.”
Brian Vickers was fourth in a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing and Paul Menard was fifth in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Jamie McMurray was sixth in a Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing, and defending series champion Brad Keselowski was the highest qualifying Ford driver in seventh.
Tony Stewart was eighth and was followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. Scott Riggs was the only driver who failed to qualify.MORE IN Sports WireTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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