AVONDALE, Ariz. – If anyone needed a reminder for how fast Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas have been this season, JGR’s drivers made it loud and clear on Friday.
Kyle Busch won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam 500 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, while JGR teammates Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin gave JGR a sweep of the top three. Busch’s 138.387-mph lap of 26.014 seconds eclipsed Edwards by a whopping .165-second margin. Busch’s considerable advantage was one of several unexpected occurrences throughout a qualifying session that took an hour to complete.
“It all transpired into a great day today,” Busch said. “I’m looking forward to the No. 1 pit selection on Sunday, and hopefully we can get our first win of the year.”
Kurt Busch’s Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was fourth, while Jimmie Johnson – who rounded out the top five on the timesheet – was forced to a backup car after a violent crash in turn one. Johnson’s car broke right as he entered the corner and made hard contact with the outside wall. He was unhurt, but frustrated after what was one of many misfortunes that struck Hendrick Motorsports.
“(The car) went right at a place where it shouldn’t go right,” Johnson said.
Aside from Johnson’s accident, Kasey Kahne’s engine caught fire after he was third-fastest in the first round. Kahne will also go to the rear after his team was forced to change engines.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the most recent winner at Phoenix, fought handling issues and qualified 26th, while Chase Elliott – in 17th – will be the highest-ranked Hendrick car on Sunday’s grid after being the only one to have an uneventful session.
Matt Kenseth continued JGR’s successful day with a sixth-place run, while Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top 10.