Forget about the superspeedways. Chase Elliott roared to his first pole of the season Friday, capturing the No. 1 starting spot for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Elliott, driver of the No 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, established a track qualifying record for the 0.533-mile, high-banked track with his final round run of 14.568 seconds at 131.713 mph. That bettered the former mark of 131.407 mph established by Denny Hamlin in 2015 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Prior to Friday’s effort, all four of Elliott’s previous poles had come on what had been the series’ restrictor-plate tracks – three at Daytona International Speedway and one at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I’ve been wanting a pole outside of Daytona and Talladega for quite some time now,” Elliott, a three-time Cup race winner, said. “I felt like I was able to deliver a pole to my team that really deserves it, on way more than one occasion over the years. I felt like I haven’t (done) my part.”
Elliott was eighth quickest in the opening round that saw the 24 fastest advance; he was second fastest in the second round to advance to the final 12.
He had been eighth in the day’s lone practice.
“I think Ryan probably threw me a bone, it looked like he messed up,” Elliott said of fellow competitor Ryan Blaney. “He had a pretty good lap going.
“The starting spot is great, but it’s also just a starting spot. I think the first pit box down there is probably more important than anything.
“Our car has pace so I think if we can get it driving good, I think we have a chance (on Sunday).”
Blaney, driver of the Team Penske No. 12 Ford, was “One Lap Blaney” through the first two rounds, racing his way to the top of the scoreboard with single-lap efforts. But the final round proved to be a different story.
“I got greedy,” Blaney admitted. “Got greedy into (Turn) 3 and missed it. Probably would have run about a (14).45. Got loose out of (the turn) and lost it just a little bit.”
As a result, Blaney will start behind Elliott, third on the 37-car starting grid.
William Byron will start alongside Elliott, his HMS teammate, after locking down the No. 2 starting spot. It was the second consecutive race in which Byron had qualified on the outside of the front row.
Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing will begin the race in fourth and fifth.
Kurt Busch, winner of last year’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, struggled in qualifying and failed to make it out of the first round. The former series champion will start 27th Sunday.
“Car was loose; we didn’t get a good time,” Busch said. “That’s all I have. I did one lap and I’m in here talking for 30th. Car was loose. We didn’t get a good time.”
Points leader Kyle Busch did not advance to the final round and will start 17th. Busch is a seven-time winner at BMS and is the defending champion of the Food City 500.