NASCAR Wire Service
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Martin Truex Jr. thought he had the pole for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 — until Kyle Larson made the last run in the final round of Friday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series knockout qualifying at Michigan International Speedway.
Driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Larson, who won the first Cup race of his career last August at MIS, covered the two-mile distance in 35.616 seconds (202.156 mph), edging Truex (202.117 mph) for the top starting spot by a scant .007 seconds.
“We made some good adjustments there for that final round,” said Larson, who earned his first Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan, his second of the season and the third of his career. “I was pretty good in the first round and a little bit tight in the second round. They went a step further on freeing it up for the final round and the Cars 3 Chevy drove good.
“I could tell by the RPM and the engine it was going to be a pretty good lap, so I was happy about that to get the pole after winning here last year. So, hopefully, we can keep it going. So far, it’s been a really good weekend leading in (opening) practice and then getting the quick time here. So, yeah, it’s an exciting weekend, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Truex went all-out on his lap in the money round, with his car bottoming out and trailing a stream of sparks though the corners at each end of the track.
“You’re just hoping the tires stick enough that it doesn’t turn you sideways or make you get tight or whatever,” Truex said of the lap. “It really feels like the car rides really rough. That’s really all it is. It doesn’t upset the car too much, if it’s just light contact.
As fast as his final lap was, Truex will start second for the third consecutive race, having lost poles at Dover and Pocono to Kyle Busch.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Truex said. “I thought we had it there, but Kyle went out late and beat us. But, really, you’re never shocked. It’s really hard to put a perfect lap together. There’s always something you could do a little bit better, and our lap in the third round was the same way… We picked up a good chunk in the third round, but, obviously, Larson picked up a tiny bit more.”
Clint Bowyer matched his best qualifying effort of the season and will start third on Sunday. Kyle Busch qualified fourth, followed by Denny Hamlin, Pocono winner Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray.
Kevin Harvick, who was fastest in each of the first two rounds of Friday’s time trials, fell off the pace in the third round and will start 11th.
“We just got really loose there in the last round,” Harvick said. “We were really good the first two, but something changed. I like the speed in race trim. We have some work to do for Sunday.”
Chase Elliott, who will start 10th, was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to make the final round, as seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson was bumped out of the top 12 by Matt Kenseth on the last run of the second round.
Johnson qualified 13th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned the 17th starting spot.
In his second race in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford as a substitute driver for injured Aric Almirola, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. will start 26th.
Ty Dillon will start from the rear on Sunday after his time was disallowed because of unapproved modifications to the body of his No. 13 Chevrolet during qualifying.