Kyle Busch’s clos­ing qual­i­fy­ing flurry lands Indy pole

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Less than an hour af­ter watch­ing one win­ning streak end Satur­day, Kyle Busch started work­ing on an­other.

Now the two-time de­fend­ing Brick­yard 400 cham­pion is in the best pos­si­ble po­si­tion for an un­prece­dented three-peat at In­di­anapo­lis.

Busch be­came the first Cup driver in nearly two decades to win back-to-back Indy poles by sav­ing his fastest lap for the fi­nal one of the day. His speed of 187.301 mph was al­most a mph faster than sec­ond-place Kevin Har­vick and was the sec­ond-fastest pole-win­ning speed in the race’s 24-year his­tory.

“Ob­vi­ously, we’ve had a re­ally fast car,” Busch said af­ter win­ning his fourth pole of the sea­son. “We’ve been fo­cused on race trim and I felt like we did a pretty good job with that. But I wasn’t sure about qual­i­fy­ing. So, ob­vi­ously, they were lis­tened to what our team­mates had to say.”

He couldn’t quib­ble with the re­sults. Har­vick’s No. 4 Ford was sec­ond at 186.332 and Jamie McMur­ray, in the No. 1 Chevro­let, wound up third at 186.274. No­body else topped 185. If the 2015 Cup cham­pion wins Sun­day, he will join for­mer For­mula One star Michael Schu­macher as the only driv­ers with three straight Indy wins in the pre­mier series of their re­spec­tive leagues. Schu­macher won the U.S. Grand Prix four con­sec­u­tive times on the road course. No­body has ever won three straight races on Indy’s oval.

“We’ve just got to keep it there, stay up front and, of course, lead the last lap,” Busch said as his 2-year-old son, Brex­ton, gig­gled into a mi­cro­phone. For Busch, it was an­other marathon ses­sion on an­other hot, hu­mid mid­sum­mer af­ter­noon in the No. 18 Toy­ota.

He drove in both of the morn­ing’s Cup prac­tices, qual­i­fied for the NASCAR Xfin­ity Series race in the early af­ter­noon and watched his four-race Indy win­ning streak snapped af­ter a late pit stop dropped him from first to 21st. Busch fin­ished 12th.

Af­ter about a 30-minute break, he was back in the car for three more qual­i­fy­ing rounds. His last lap al­lowed him to join Jeff Gor­don (1995-96) and Ernie Ir­van (1997-98) as the race’s only backto-back pole win­ners.

It cer­tainly wasn’t strat­egy. “When you’re in such a short win­dow, five min­utes, you couldn’t come back and get the tires cooled in time to make an­other lap,” he said. But it was good enough. Har­vick, mean­while, found the con­sis­tency he was seek­ing but avoided go­ing too hard to get into trou­ble.

“I think that was the right ap­proach,” Har­vick said. “I’ve tried to get too much in the last round and this is just not the place where you can over­drive the en­try and make up for some­thing. The prob­lems com­pound fast here, but it’s good to have that speed.”

GO­ING TO THE BACK

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week, series of­fi­cials threw out a qual­i­fy­ing speed. This time, it was BJ McLeod who drew the penalty af­ter a post-qual­i­fy­ing in­spec­tion showed the No. 51 car had taped shut a cool­ing aque­duct. It was sup­posed to re­main open and the penalty cost McLeod five spots on the start­ing gird.

He will start from the back of the 40car start­ing grid af­ter ini­tially qual­i­fy­ing 35th with a speed of 176.294. Kyle Lar­son’s pole-win­ning run was dis­al­lowed last week at New Hamp­shire.

Dale Earn­hardt Jr., the most pop­u­lar driver in the series, qual­i­fied 13th for his fi­nal In­di­anapo­lis start. The 42-yearold driver an­nounced in April that he will re­tire at the end of the sea­son. But be­fore he goes, Earn­hardt hopes to join Al Unser and Al Unser Jr. as the only two fa­ther-son win­ning tandems in Indy his­tory.

“Con­sid­er­ing how our sea­son has gone, win­ning here would right all the wrongs,” Earn­hardt said. Chase El­liott, who qual­i­fied 16th, also has a chance to join the fa­ther-son win­ner’s list Sun­day. One of Har­vick’s spot­ters, Tim Fedewa, had his cre­den­tial taken away briefly Satur­day af­ter drop­ping a sand­wich from the spot­ter’s stand. NASCAR spokesman Matt Humphrey said the hard card was re­turned fol­low­ing a short in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Fedewa is a for­mer driver in the series.

— AFP

ANA­HEIM: Kole Cal­houn #56 of the Los An­ge­les An­gels of Ana­heim is safe at sec­ond as sec­ond base­man Dustin Pe­droia #13 of the Bos­ton Red Sox can’t reach the ball on a throw­ing er­ror by short­stop Xan­der Bo­gaerts #2 on an at­temped force play in the fifth in­ning at An­gel Sta­dium of Ana­heim on Satur­day in Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia.

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