Kyle Busch sets record in winning pole for NHMS Sprint Cup race
Kyle Busch holds the pole award Friday, July 11, 2014, in Loudon, N.H., for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Busch turned a lap of 138.130 mph ton win the pole. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Kyle Busch races around the track during qualifying for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Friday, July 11, 2014 in Loudon, N.H. Busch broke a track record with 138.130 mph to win the pole position. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
LOUDON – Another week, another re-written record.
Kyle Busch grabbed the pole for tomorrow’s Sprint Cup Camping World RV Sales 301 with a track-record average speed of 138.130 mph, beating out Jimmie Johnson (137.790) and Denny Hamlin (137.081), while Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray took fourth and fifth, respectively.
Busch snagged his second pole of the season at the end of the second qualifying session, knocking off Johnson. His time broke the previous mark set by Ryan Newman last September – and was the 13th time a track qualifying record was broken this year.
“I gave it everything I had,” Busch said. “I thought I was a little too tight, but I guess I was driving through it enough that I still got some good speed and got the throttle down on both ends. Lap felt good, didn’t feel that good, but it felt good and I thought it was going to be a solid top-four.”
Busch’s run denied Johnson his second pole, and one that the six-time champion thought was in the bag.
“I was very optimistic coming into qualifying today,” he said. “Thought I had enough to get it there, then saw Kyle’s lap. He definitely put one down.”
Hamlin settled for third after emerging as the man to beat after the first session of the knockout format. His speed of 137.195 broke the record and had him sitting first halfway through qualifying, in front of Joey Logano (who was driving with a backup car after a wreck during practice earlier in the day), Brad Keselowski, Busch and Martin Truex Jr.
“Really knew that the (No.) 18 (of Busch) had a pretty good advantage there, getting it all on the first lap in the first session,” said Hamlin, who like Busch drives a Toyota. “That was a good move by them. And really, it’s good that our cars have some speed here.”
Logano ended up sixth, and he’ll be followed in the top 10 in the starting order by Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne. Points leader Jeff Gordon will start 11th.
K&N Pro Series East
For 99 laps, Jesse Little kept himself close. In the last lap, and on the final turn, he was able to take advantage.
A sprint to the finish line between Nick Drake and Brandon Jones resulted in a crash that wiped out the top two cars, allowing Little to take the checkered flag ahead of Eddie MacDonald and Cale Conley at the Granite State 100 last night.
“I kind of had a thought in the back of my mind that that was going to happen,” Little said. “And my main goal at that point was just keeping myself (where) if the leaders did get together, I’d be able to make a move.”
Gray Gaulding led 53 laps but hit the wall on the 79th lap to surrender the lead to Jones, who held it until the 90th lap. Drake grabbed the advantage and held it for nearly the rest of the race, until Jones attempted a last-second pass that resulted in him clipping Drake to spin both out on the final turn of the race.
With Jones and Drake out of the picture, finishing 21st and 24th, respectively, Little made it through unscathed to pick up the first win of his career over a hard-charging MacDonald.
“Those last couple of laps, I just went into defense mode,” said Little, who finished second in Phoenix last year after a similar late wreck and learned from that race how to prepare for chaotic finishes. “I was just starting to drive a lot lower and take a lower approach to the corner to keep Eddie from being able to get underneath me.”
Pole winner Ben Rhodes led 18 laps but finished 22nd in his pursuit of a fifth straight win. Instead, Little was the one getting the win, and a fine birthday present for his mother.
“It was something we joked around (about). ‘Hey mom, how would you like a trophy for your birthday?’ ” Little said. “When I came up in Victory Lane and I saw her there, it almost made me cry.”
Whelen All-Star Shootout
A brand-new event had a familiar face in Victory Lane.
The inaugural Whelen All-Star shootout went to Sprint Cup regular Ryan Newman, who held off Justin Bonsignore and Mike Stefanik in the finale of the 40-lap event, which featured two 20-lap segments and a mid-race caution that rearranged the order for the final stretch.
“Just use the quotes from the last six years,” Newman said when asked about his success at Loudon, which includes two Modified wins and four poles since September 2008. “I don’t know. There’s just something about here, it’s always been a good track for me. … It’s not the raciest race track we’ve come to, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in Victory Lane at the end of the day.”
Ron Silk, who was leading the race after the first 20 laps, finished fourth after a roulette-style wheel spin determined that all of the top 10 spots would be inverted, dropping him to 10th for the second half. Bobby Santos placed fifth, while Patrick Emerling (second after the first segment) finished 16th and Ryan Preece (third) came in sixth.
Stay where you are
Jimmie Johnson has some advice for the winless Matt Kenseth: Stay that way.
Johnson, the Sprint Cup’s lone driver with three wins this season despite a dry spell that lasted until May 25, was asked for his advice for Kenseth, last year’s runner-up for the Cup title, on how to handle his own funk.
Johnson, however, wasn’t about to give his rival a hand.
“I don’t know if I want to give Matt any advice,” he said. “He’s pretty damned good.”
The quip got a good reaction from the media, after which Johnson took a more serious tone.
“It doesn’t take much for it to shift and change,” he said. “They’ve had speed. They’ve been up front. It’s coming. And it doesn’t take much just to have that crossover center and have it work for them. I think our team was proof of that earlier this year.”
(Drew Bonifant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 369-3340 or on Twittter @dbonifant.)