Kurt Busch leads Ste­wart-Haas sweep at Tal­ladega race track

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer

TAL­LADEGA, Ala.—Kurt Busch led a Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing sweep to put all four of the com­pany cars up front at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way for a crit­i­cal play­off race.

Busch turned a lap at 195.804 mph to qual­ify in the top spot for Sun­day’s race. He edged team­mate Clint Bowyer, who qual­i­fied sec­ond, ahead of Kevin Har­vick and Aric Almirola as the Ford horse­power built by Doug Yates’ en­gine shop proved su­pe­rior in qual­i­fy­ing.

“Four Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing Fords up front, I’m just happy I had the fastest one,” said Busch, who won his first ca­reer pole at ei­ther Day­tona or Tal­ladega, the two big­gest and fastest tracks in NASCAR.

All four SHR driv­ers are still part of the 12-driver cham­pi­onship field, which will be trimmed by four fol­low­ing next week­end’s race at Kan­sas. Almirola and Bowyer are tied for ninth on the play­off grid, barely hold­ing on to trans­fer po­si­tions.

“I’ve got to beat and dif­fer­en­ti­ate and sep­a­rate my­self from my team­mate, Aric, we’re both 10 points out,” Bowyer said. “I’ve got to cap­i­tal­ize on that some­how and close that gap here.”

Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports had the next fastest fleet as the Chevro­lets from Chase El­liott, Jim­mie John­son, Alex Bow­man and Wil­liam By­ron qual­i­fied in slots five through eight.

“All four guys in the top 12 is a strong show­ing for us,” By­ron said. “Qual­i­fy­ing doesn’t re­flect to­tally on how things will shake out Sun­day and how you are go­ing to race. But it should be fine. With the four of us to­gether at the start, we have an op­por­tu­nity to stay in front of some of the pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tions.”

The Toy­ota group fol­lowed as Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mates Kyle Busch and Denny Ham­lin qual­i­fied ninth and 10th, fol­lowed by reign­ing Cup cham­pion Mar­tin Truex Jr.

“We cer­tainly qual­i­fied bet­ter that we ex­pected to,” said Kyle Busch. “The guys that qual­i­fied good are the ones you would ex­pect to.”

The re­main­ing four play­off driv­ers were Brad Ke­selowski (18th), Ryan Blaney (19th), Joey Logano (20th) and Kyle Lar­son (34th).

Other items from Tal­ladega:

FAST CARS

Tal­ladega had an “en­hanced week­end” in which Cup cars were on track two days in­stead of three, with just one prac­tice ses­sion prior to Sun­day’s race. It as a fast ses­sion, too, as Har­vick led 23 other driv­ers to speeds over 200 mph. Har­vick topped the prac­tice board at 204.227 mph.

BUD­GET RAC­ING

Richard Petty Mo­tor­sports had just one su­per­speed­way car to bring to Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way so Bubba Wal­lace has been on his best be­hav­ior all week­end. Wal­lace had to com­plete both a prac­tice ses­sion and Sat­ur­day qual­i­fy­ing with­out harm­ing his Chevro­let be­cause RPM did not bring a backup car.

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