DARLINGTON, S.C. – William Byron is making a habit of winning the pole for crown-jewel races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Driving a neon green-and-yellow No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro themed after Cole Trickle’s iconic Days of Thunder ride from the 1990 movie, Byron sped to his third pole in as many marquee events this season, notching the top starting spot for Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Byron topped Saturday afternoon’s steamy qualifying session with a fast lap of 28.510 seconds (172.487 mph) in his City Chevrolet-sponsored entry, flying the banner for the Rick Hendrick-owned dealership carrying the same name.
It marked his fourth pole of the season, tying Kevin Harvick for the most in the Cup Series, and his first at Darlington.
Appropriately, Byron had a movie reference waiting for NBC Sports pit reporter Dave Burns after officially securing the Busch Pole Award for NASCAR’s most-grueling event.
“I guess we dropped the hammer on that one,” Byron quipped. “It was good, though! The car was really good for us. We luckily did a mock run yesterday. We had enough time to do one at the end of P1 (first practice), and I feel like that helped us propel our qualifying effort a little bit more, because we kind of knew what the grip level was going to be like and had an idea of what our balance was going to be.
“To have the City Chevrolet No. 24 on the pole is an awesome feeling, and now we’ll see what we can do for 500 miles Sunday night.”
Byron became the third driver to win the poles for the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 in the same season, joining Fireball Roberts (1962) and Bill Elliott (1985).
“It seems like we’ve put more effort into those marquee qualifying efforts, just knowing how important track position is and knowing that if we can have that first pit stall all day long and all night long, it’s going to be a big deal,” Byron noted. “It’s a really long race, though, and we want that victory. We just have to run all 500 miles and stay in it.
“It’s cool, though. Any time you can make a little piece of history like that, it’s a neat feeling.”
Defending Southern 500 winner Brad Keselowski will join Byron on the front row after a lap of 28.576 seconds (172.088 mph) with his No. 2 Miller Lite Throwback Ford Mustang.
The Chip Ganassi Racing pair of Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch will share the second row of the grid – starting third and fourth, respectively – with Daniel Suarez completing the top five.
Byron’s teammate Jimmie Johnson will start sixth, followed by Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, two-time Southern 500 winner Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.
Among the top 10 starters, only Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin are former Southern 500 winners.
Kyle Busch experienced engine issues with his No. 18 Toyota Camry on his qualifying lap, relegating him to 33rd on the time sheets and likely to the rear of the field for Sunday’s race after an engine change.
To view complete qualifying results, advance to the next page.