Kurt Busch claimed his third consecutive pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan. The Penske Racing driver also made it four in a row for his team, counting Brad Keselowski's pole position for the Coke 600 at Charlotte last month.
Busch set a fastest lap of 38.156 seconds at an average speed of 188.699mph, which bettered the previous benchmark set by Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth. Later Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann came to within just four thousandths of a second of beating Busch and will start alongside him on the front row.
"This is a first time that we have had a pole without spinning or wrecking our primary car," said Busch, who had incidents in practice ahead of qualifying in the last two weeks, even being forced to a back-up car for qualifying at Pocono.
"This was a conventional weekend, so to speak. It's that way because the first few times after the big changes that we made, our car was very different to drive. Basically, it came down to core set-up in the car and it came to the core pieces that we're bolting on the car. It's not like we changed chassis design overnight, but there are small things that we've added there as well."
Kenseth will start third and is expected to be one of the strongest contenders on Sunday along with his Roush Fenway teammates. Red Bull's Brian Vickers joins him on the second row of the grid with the fastest Toyota, while Regan Smith rounded out the top five as the fastest Chevrolet.
In their first race since serving their probation period, Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick will be starting from 22nd, right ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch in 24th. Points leader Carl Edwards will start between them in 23rd, while second placed Jimmie Johnson took 21st.
Kyle Busch's team-mate Joey Logano qualified 30th but will go to the back of the grid following an engine change after his primary unit failed early in the final practice session on Friday. That was after both he and team-mate Denny Hamlin had to sit out the initial part of the first practice after NASCAR deemed that the design of the oil pans on all three engines from the Gibbs' cars had not been submitted for approval by the sanctioning body. All three oil pans had to be changed before the cars could turn a lap of practice but still penalties are expected next week.
"NASCAR will discuss early next week if there will be any additional penalties assessed to these three teams," said an official statement.
Front Row Motorsports' Travis Kvapil was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 28th, while Tony Raines, Brian Keselowski and Mike Skinner failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 38.156s
2. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 38.159s + 0.003s
3. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 38.172s + 0.016s
4. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 38.266s + 0.110s
5. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 38.378s + 0.222s
6. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 38.384s + 0.228s
7. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 38.389s + 0.233s
8. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 38.393s + 0.237s
9. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 38.403s + 0.247s
10. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 38.413s + 0.257s
11. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 38.422s + 0.266s
12. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 38.455s + 0.299s
13. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 38.456s + 0.300s
14. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 38.471s + 0.315s
15. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 38.476s + 0.320s
16. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 38.490s + 0.334s
17. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 38.496s + 0.340s
18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 38.498s + 0.342s
19. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 38.509s + 0.353s
20. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 38.558s + 0.402s
21. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 38.571s + 0.415s
22. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 38.571s + 0.415s
23. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 38.585s + 0.429s
24. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 38.592s + 0.436s
25. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 38.595s + 0.439s
26. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 38.604s + 0.448s
27. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 38.626s + 0.470s
28. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 38.664s + 0.508s
29. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 38.747s + 0.591s
30. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 38.762s + 0.606s
31. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 38.770s + 0.614s
32. David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 38.784s + 0.628s
33. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 38.803s + 0.647s
34. JJ Yeley Whitney Chevrolet 38.855s + 0.699s
35. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 38.866s + 0.710s
36. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 38.966s + 0.810s
37. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 38.985s + 0.829s
38. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 39.009s + 0.853s
39. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 39.015s + 0.859s
40. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 39.037s + 0.881s
41. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 39.093s + 0.937s
42. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 39.417s + 1.261s
43. Scott Riggs Whitney Chevrolet 39.177s + 1.021s
Did not qualify:
Tony Raines Front Row Ford 39.185s + 1.029s
Brian Keselowski K-Automotive Dodge 39.460s + 1.304s
Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 39.661s + 1.505s