LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kurt Busch survived NASCAR’s version of bump day to beat the clock and the rest of the field.
Busch turned a lap at 177.599 mph Friday and won the pole at a bumpy Pocono Raceway in a bizarre qualifying session that saw five cars fail to complete a lap in the final round.
Denny Hamlin bobbled and lost control of the No. 11 Toyota as the qualifying clock ticked down, bringing out the red flag. With only 39 seconds left in the third round, NASCAR scrubbed the rest of qualifying. Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne all failed to record a lap time.
Logano was on the track and seemed poised to nip Busch for the pole until the red flag was waved.
“Because a car spins out and they throw a red flag for it and then you don’t get an opportunity to go out and make a lap, I don’t understand it,” Logano said. “It makes me mad. I don’t get it. We didn’t even have a chance to try to put our car up front.”
The reason: There simply wasn’t enough time left on the clock for the remaining cars to complete a lap under green. Busch’s pole-winning lap was run in 50.676 seconds.
Without turning one final lap, Johnson still posted his best qualifying spot out of the last five races.
“As long as NASCAR is consistent through all three series, then we will take our medicine and just deal with it,” Johnson said. “The weird thing is on the clock, it still says 39 seconds. So, I’m highly confused on many levels. But, we’re starting the best we have in a long time.”
Kurt Busch won his third pole of the season in the No. 41 Chevrolet, and 19th of his career.
Carl Edwards joined Busch on the front row. Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick complete the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr., trying to become the third driver in Pocono history to win three straight races, will start 20th.
Hamlin’s spin knocked him down to eighth.
“I was going to go for the pole and run as hard as I could and just stepped over the line a little bit,” he said.
Kurt Busch has one win this season with five top 10s, a nice rebound from a three-race suspension that opened the season because of his offseason legal woes.
The drivers not only had to beat the clock, they had to survive bumps that formed in Turn 2, known as the tunnel turn, on the tri-oval track. Drivers complained about the bumps and track president Brandon Igdalsky said there was no way the track could get smoothed out in time for Sunday’s race.
“There’s speed bumps the size that you would put in grocery store parking lots up on top of the track,” Kurt Busch said. “The sooner you get over it, the better you’re going to be. I had to ignore the tunnel turn, and how bad the bumps are there, and get focused on the majority of the race track.”
While some drivers griped, Gordon looked forward to the challenge of maneuvering through or around the bumps on Sunday.
“It might make for a great race and add some unique challenge that we weren’t expecting,” Gordon said.
Busch’s three poles match the second-highest total of his career, and are three shy of the six he had in 2006.
“Today was a big day for this 41 team to develop into a big-time player,” he said.
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