Kurt Busch takes the pole at Pocono

Stewart-Haas Racing drivers top the speed chart in all three time trial rounds.

Kurt Busch takes the pole at Pocono
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Kurt Busch earned the pole for the Axalta 400 with a lap of 177.599 mph in qualifying at Pocono Raceway on Friday. 

It was his second pole at the Tricky Triangle, his third in 2015 and Busch’s 19th career Sprint Cup pole overall.

"It felt like there were six corners out there today on how hard I was working," said Busch, who has two career wins at Pocono. "I actually didn't feel connected to the car and then we had the wrong gear ratio and the transmission in third gear and we just had to deal with it -- maybe it's the right one now. So there was so much disconnect right when we first got here that we had to drop back and reboot."

Busch's team turned to his former crew chief Daniel Knost for last year's set up and the car came to life.

"Today was a big group bonding day and a strength-building day on what this 41 team can do together," Busch added. "To be so far off at the beginning and to be here with the pole and to have the track position and the pit box and everything that goes along with starting first, it's an incredible day."

Carl Edwards, whose lap (177.550 mph) was 0.014-seconds slower than Busch, will share the front row with the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy. 

“This is what we needed,” Edwards said. “This was good.”

Martin Truex Jr. (177.522mph), Jeff Gordon (177.211 mph), Kevin Harvick (177.200 mph), Austin Dillon (176.526 mph) and Brad Keselowski (175.697 mph)rounded out the top seven qualifiers — and were the only drivers to earn a time following a miscue by Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin spun out at the four minute mark but by the time NASCAR put the race under caution, only 39-seconds remained in the session.

“I was just going for it,” Hamlin said. “I thought I had a Fed Ex Camry that could go for the pole.” 

Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson had yet to take a lap prior to Hamlin’s incident and reverted to their second round speeds. 

Despite Harvick qualifying fifth, the crew was forced to take the final pit selection as part of a P1 penalty that was issued to the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team this week they received written warnings in the last two points races prior to Pocono.

The second round

Harvick posted the fastest lap during the second round of time trials — 177.708 mph (50.645-seconds). Denny Hamlin (177.676 mph) was second fast followed by Jimmie Johnson (177.385 mph), Kyle Busch (177.193 mph), Austin Dillon (176.803 mph) and Joey Logano (176.800 mph).

Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski all transfered to the final round. 

Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt barely missed transferring to the third session. Earnhardt said he chopped the entry in first turn on the first lap and racked up his result to driver error. 

"We had pretty good speed in practice," said Earnhardt, who will start 20th. "The driver just didn't do a good job."

The first round 

Harvick topped the first round with a lap of 177.539 mph followed by Kyle Busch (177.452 mph), Jeff Gordon (177.427 mph), Carl Edwards (176.965 mph) and Denny Hamlin (276.940 mph). 

Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 12 in the first session. Earnhardt Jr., was 13th. 

Greg Biffle made a last dash attempt to break into the top 24 and earn a transfer spot, but NASCAR said he did not take his lap in time. Although he posted the 22nd fastest lap on that late session run, the No. 16 will start 26th. 

“I guess our timing and scoring is different from their’s,” Biffle said. “But they said I missed it by point five.”

Starting Grid

 Pos.  No.   Driver   Car / Engine   Time  Margin 
1 41  Kurt Busch Chevrolet 50.676 -
2 19  Carl Edwards Toyota 50.690 0.014
3 78  Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet 50.698 0.022
4 24  Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 50.787 0.111
5 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 50.790 0.114
6 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 50.984 0.308
7 Brad Keselowski Ford 51.146 0.470
8 11  Denny Hamlin Toyota 50.654 -0.022
9 48  Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 50.737 0.061
10 18  Kyle Busch Toyota 50.792 0.116
11 22  Joey Logano Ford 50.905 0.229
12 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 51.116 0.440
13 31  Ryan Newman Chevrolet 51.126 0.450
14 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 51.135 0.459
15 42  Kyle Larson Chevrolet 51.153 0.477
16 27  Paul Menard Chevrolet 51.167 0.491
17 17  R.Stenhouse Jr. Ford 51.224 0.548
18 13  Casey Mears Chevrolet 51.232 0.556
19 20  Matt Kenseth Toyota 51.273 0.597
20 88  D.Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 51.292 0.616
21 55  David Ragan Toyota 51.306 0.630
22 10  Danica Patrick Chevrolet 51.478 0.802
23 15  Clint Bowyer Toyota 51.654 0.978
24 Sam Hornish Jr. Ford 51.778 1.102
25 43  Aric Almirola Ford 51.490 0.814
26 47  A.J.Allmendinger Chevrolet 51.496 0.820
27 16  Greg Biffle Ford 51.522 0.846
28 14  Tony Stewart Chevrolet 51.531 0.855
29 33  Ty Dillon Chevrolet 51.630 0.954
30 51  Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 51.715 1.039
31 46  Michael Annett Chevrolet 51.762 1.086
32 40  Landon Cassill Chevrolet 51.792 1.116
33 Trevor Bayne Ford 51.815 1.139
34 Alex Bowman Chevrolet 51.900 1.224
35 38  David Gilliland Ford 52.184 1.508
36 34  Brett Moffitt Ford 52.193 1.517
37 23  J.J. Yeley Toyota 52.329 1.653
38 98  Josh Wise Ford 52.360 1.684
39 35  Cole Whitt Ford 52.401 1.725
40 26  Jeb Burton Toyota 52.748 2.072
41 83  Matt DiBenedetto Toyota 53.116 2.440
42 32  Travis Kvapil Ford 53.216 2.540
43 62  Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet

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