Kurt Busch captures inaugural pole at Charlotte Roval

Kurt Busch won the Busch Pole Award Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the inaugural running of the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 featuring a unique 2.28-mile, 17-turn, road course.

His 106.868 mph lap in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford earned him his fourth pole of the season and the 26th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Bush was the only Ford driver at the top of the leaderboard with Chevrolets scoring seven of the top 10 starting positions.

Busch, a playoff contender, spoke about the significance of the pole, saying, “It’s pretty special to get the pole at an inaugural event and to do it here at the Roval, I mean, there’s so much going on. There’s so much that everybody has to manage, crew chief, lead engineer, myself, engine tuners, everybody chipped in on this 41 car the right way. We had a plan for the first two rounds and it paid off. I struggled this year qualifying at Watkins Glen and at Sonoma, so we came here with a plan and it worked. Some conventional wisdom and thinking played out with our pole run today, but thanks to the guys, Monster Energy, Haas Automation, and Ford. We’re on the pole for the Roval.”

AJ Allmendinger’s expertise on road courses was evident as he will start beside Busch after qualifying second with a lap speed of 106.811 mph in what will be his final season in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.

“It’s a crazy race track, for sure,” he said. “It’s like my Champ Car days. It’s a street course in the infield there. The walls are on both sides and if you make a small mistake, you’re going to pay the price for it. To me, it makes for a lot of fun because you’ve got to be on point. You’ve got to be aggressive but you can’t be over-aggressive. I could nit-pick both my laps and say there’s a lot more out there, but you could easily try to get that and find yourself in the wall. My strategy (for Sunday) is to go out there and try to win. I’ve got no job, it doesn’t matter. I’m going there trying to win.”

Alex Bowman (P), Chase Elliott (P) and Kyle Larson (P), rounded out the top five qualifiers. Jimmie Johnson (P), Clint Bowyer (P), Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney (P) and Chris Buescher will start in sixth-10th, respectively.

Bowman was pleased with his effort but said, “Well I didn’t think we would qualify third on the Roval, so this was a nice surprise! Greg (Ives) and this Axalta team made some great changes after practice, which made the car a lot better in some of the turns. I messed up off the bus stop, so I think the biggest thing on Sunday will be minimizing mistakes. I’m glad to be up toward the front to start this race and hopefully, we can stay up front all day on Sunday and have a clean Axalta Camaro ZL1 at the end of the day.”

Johnson spoke about the significance of starting up front.

“Track position is going to be super important after that first stage and we are after stage points,” he said. “Strategy is going to play a huge role in this race, and the first guy with enough fuel and tires for the finish is going to be in great, great shape. But we need points in each segment and then obviously a good result at the end. So, starting this close to the front is a huge, huge help.”

Playoff drivers Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano qualified 12th-15th, respectively, with Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola starting 19th and 20th. The remaining drivers vying for the championship will start in the back half of the field, including Austin Dillon (24th), Brad Keselowski (25th) and Denny Hamlin (27th).

The Charlotte Roval course has proved to be challenging as evidenced by several incidents during practice and qualifying. It will also serve as an elimination race and cut the Playoff field from 16 drivers to 12. Only three drivers have clinched a spot in the next round – Kyle Busch, Keselowski and Truex. Bowyer, Johnson, Jones and Hamlin are currently below the cutoff.

Hamlin may face the biggest hurdle as he enters the race ranked last in the Round of 16. During qualifying, he hit the outside wall and damaged the rear of his car. The Joe Gibbs Racing team made repairs to the No. 11 and were able to make another qualifying run to start 27th. However, the decision was made to go to a backup car which means Hamlin will start from the rear of the field.

Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 will be televised on NBC at 2 p.m. with radio coverage by PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Follow @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.

Starting Line Up
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
The Inaugural Bank of America ROVAL 400

1 41 Kurt Busch (P) Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford
2 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet
3 88 Alex Bowman (P) Axalta Chevrolet
4 9 Chase Elliott (P) SunEnergy1 Chevrolet
5 42 Kyle Larson (P) Clover/First Data Chevrolet
6 48 Jimmie Johnson (P) Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet
7 14 Clint Bowyer (P) Mobil 1/Advance Auto Parts Ford
8 1 Jamie McMurray DC Solar Chevrolet
9 12 Ryan Blaney (P) Menards/Pennzoil Ford
10 37 Chris Buescher Maple Cheerios Chevrolet
11 8 Daniel Hemric(i) Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet
12 20 Erik Jones (P) Reser’s Toyota
13 78 Martin Truex Jr. (P) Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota
14 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M’s Toyota
15 22 Joey Logano (P) Shell Pennzoil Ford
16 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Rehydrate Ford
17 19 Daniel Suarez Lenox Toyota
18 34 Michael McDowell K-LOVE Radio Ford
19 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Jimmy John’s New 9-Grain Wheat Sub Ford
20 10 Aric Almirola (P) Smithfield Ford
21 24 William Byron # Unifirst Chevrolet
22 21 Paul Menard Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
23 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. SunnyD Ford
24 3 Austin Dillon (P) Dow Chevrolet
25 2 Brad Keselowski (P) Alliance Truck Parts Ford
26 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Chevrolet
27 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Freight Toyota
28 32 Matt DiBenedetto Superior Logistics Services Inc. Ford
29 31 Ryan Newman Grainger/American Red Cross Chevrolet
30 38 David Ragan MDS Transport Ford
31 15 Justin Marks(i) GoPro Motorplex/Pickers Vodka Chevrolet
32 95 Regan Smith Procore Chevrolet
33 72 Cole Whitt Rinnai Chevrolet
34 43 Bubba Wallace # World Wide Technology Chevrolet
35 7 Ross Chastain(i) SOKAL Media Group Chevrolet
36 23 JJ Yeley(i) Adirondack Tree Surgeons Toyota
37 96 Jeffrey Earnhardt iK9/Xtreme Concepts Toyota
38 00 Landon Cassill(i) Dairi O Chevrolet
39 51 Stanton Barrett Jacob Companies Ford
40 66 Timmy Hill(i) Ternio Toyota

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Angela Campbell
Angela Campbell
A native of Charlotte, NC, Angela (Angie) was first introduced to racing by her father. An avid fan of NASCAR, she found a way to combine her love of racing with her passion for writing. Angie is also an award-winning member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow her on Twitter @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.

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