0

Kyle Busch claims first restrictor-plate pole

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Busch won the pole for tonight's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, leading a Toyota sweep of the top three starting positions.

In Friday afternoon's qualifying, Busch toured the 2.5-mile superspeedway at 193.723 mph to win his third pole of the season, his first at Daytona and the 13th of his career. Never before had Busch won more than two poles in a season or a Sprint Cup Series pole at a restrictor-plate track.

Busch edged Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth (193.299 mph) for the top starting spot in the 18th Sprint Cup race of the season. Clint Bowyer (193.158 mph) qualified third in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, as Camry drivers claimed five of the top seven spots on the grid.

Despite his prowess across all three of NASCAR's top three series, Busch was beginning to wonder if he'd ever get a Sprint Cup pole at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway, the two tracks where restrictor plates are used in the series.

"I never thought I'd get one," Busch said. "But I guess, never say never. It's pretty cool because it has absolutely nothing to do with the driver but everything to do with the car and equipment you're driving.

"Unfortunately, whether it's been trucks, Nationwide or Sprint Cup, I've never had a (restrictor plate) pole. I thought it was always something to do with me. That's not really true; it's just in the back of your mind. But it's cool to sit on the pole here, and I'm definitely excited about knowing I have a fast race car, qualifying well, and getting ready for Saturday night."

Kasey Kahne posted the fourth-fastest lap at 193.154 mph and was the best of the Chevrolet drivers. Martin Truex Jr. (193.129 mph), fresh from his recent victory at Sonoma, will start fifth. Paul Menard, Michael Waltrip, series points leader Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle secured the sixth through 10th positions, respectively.

Stenhouse, the last driver to make a qualifying run, knocked girlfriend Danica Patrick from the 10th to the 11th starting position. Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski qualified 15th, one position ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is seeking his first victory since June 2012 at Michigan.

The qualifying session was the only on-track obligation of Sprint Cup drivers on Friday, and Bowyer was getting stir-crazy.

"I can't wait for Saturday," Bowyer said. "My ADD is running wild. I think I ran seven laps (in Thursday's practice) and one today. All these fans down here having a blast down at the beach and I can't join 'em because of that one lap that I had to do today.

"I can't wait to hopefully put on a good show for them. We all know it's going to be wild -- it always is at Daytona."