William Byron had the car to beat Saturday at Circuit of The Americas. He topped the NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with a lap of 130.76 seconds at 93.882 mph to earn the Busch Light Pole Award at the 20-turn, 3.41-mile track.
It was his ninth career pole in the Cup Series and Byron also set a record as the first driver to win a poll at four different road course venues – Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis Road Course (2021) and COTA (2022).
Byron spoke about the significance of earning the pole but is focused on Sunday’s race.
“It’s good,” he said. “I think it’s been an up-and-down weekend. The Cup car, we definitely had a little bit of work to do yesterday just on overall balance and grip in some areas, and areas in me as a driver.
Byron added, “Good to get the pole, but really tomorrow is what matters and there’s a lot of work to do.”
Tyler Reddick will join Byron on the front row in the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing, his first top-five start this season. He ran a record qualifying lap record during the opening round (94.210 mph) but fell short during the final round.
Team Penske driver Austin Cindric will start third in his No. 2 Ford and is optimistic about the upcoming race.
“Good execution,” he said, “by everyone in our Discount Ford Mustang in qualifying. I feel like this weekend, more than others, qualifying will certainly have an impact on your ability to have a good finish – without the stage cautions. So, solid place to start, it gives us great pit selection.”
Taylor, a four-time IMSA champion, filling in for the injured Chase Elliott, was fourth fastest in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“It was honestly a full new experience, and yesterday [in practice], I felt like I was out of control 90 percent of the time,” Taylor said. “Today, I felt like I knew what the car was doing. We made good set-up changes to help with that and give me a better sense of where the grip was. Today felt super smooth, and it felt like I was driving my [sports] car, something super familiar for me.”
He gave much of the credit to HMS, saying, “the Hendrick guys have done an amazing job.”
Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez rounds out the top-five qualifiers. Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson was the fastest rookie in qualifying.
Former Formula One drivers Kimi Räikkönen who has one prior Cup Series start, qualified 22nd in the No. 91 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet and Jenson Button, in his first start in the series, (No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford) qualified 24th.
Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st in his second race this year as a team owner and part-time driver for Legacy Motor Club in the No. 84 Chevrolet.
IndyCar driver Conor Daly, with two previous starts in the Cup Series, including the 2023 Daytona 500, qualified 35th.
The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.