For the 13th time this season Friday the NASCAR Sprint Cup series knockout qualifying set a new track record. Kyle Busch wheeled his Joe Gibbs Racing to a speed of 27.574 seconds, or 138.130 mph at New Hampshire Motor Speedway beating the old record set in September of last year of 136.497.
Busch was 10th the first, and only practice session earlier in the day with a speed of 134.696. He had the speed when it mattered though winning the second session and his second pole of the season. Busch later admitted that he wasn’t sure if his winning lap was actually all that good.
“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 and I thought it was going to be a solid top-four. Real proud of the guys on this Interstate Batteries Camry. We didn’t unload great, but made some good changes and made up some good ground.”
Busch was fourth in the first knockout session; his teammate Denny Hamlin led the way over Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
“Really knew that the 18 (Kyle Busch) had a pretty good advantage there getting it all on the first lap in the first session,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, it gives you a one lap advantage on tires. That was a good move by them. And, really it’s good that our cars have got some speed here.”
Johnson led the earlier practice session but came up a little short during the qualifying session; he will start second Sunday.
“It’s so tough to get a good lap around here,” Johnson said. “The first outing put up a decent time, fastest of the day for ourselves, still knew that we had to go faster and to come out for the second session on older tires and improve by over two tenths is something to be proud of. “
“Of course we want to get the pole, want to be faster, but Kyle (Busch) found a little bit more out there than us,” Johnson added. “We feel really good about our Lowe’s Chevrolet. We did some race runs to start practice off. The car was right where we wanted it based on our test session here a month ago and q-trim went really well too. This helps make the weekend so much easier to race. You get a good pit stall pick, good track position and you can fine tune from here. Hopefully we will be able to fine tune and make a race winning car.”
Busch has one win here, that coming in 2006. He hopes that the top starting spot will translate into his second win at Loudon, especially after finishing second twice last season.
“We’ve been close here,” Busch said. “I think the biggest thing is I always like to be able to take off and go and when I can take off and go -- it usually means I’m too tight halfway through the run and on after that -- and that’s when those guys seem to be able to beat us. The second race last year we ran a lot better on the long run, but the race was a little too short and ran out of time to our teammate (Matt Kenseth). All in all, one-two (finish) by JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), so we’ll see if we can put the 18 out front.”
With 43 cars entered no cars were sent home. Other notables: Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon will start 11th, defending race winner Brian Vickers 17th and Kenseth, Busch’s teammate and the winner her last fall will start 15th.
The Camping World RV Sales 301 will get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. Sunday with live coverage from TNT starting at 12:30 p.m.