BRISTOL, Tenn. – Count Kyle Busch among those who like NASCAR’s new race car. Of course, a new track record is bound to draw praise from any driver.
Busch won his first career pole at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday with a lap in his Toyota at 129.535 mph, breaking Ryan Newman’s 10-year-old track record of 128.709.
This new car, I like driving it because you can drive it like the older car we had years ago where you could just abuse it a little bit and drive it a little harder, Busch said. The old car was all about being smooth and precise, and this one here you can make a little bit more speed by trying a little bit harder.
Busch tried hard enough Friday to shred the mark set by Newman, who had been the first driver to go under 15 seconds when he set the lap record. Busch was one of nine drivers to go under 15 seconds in qualifying, and his time of 14.813 is the new record.
Kasey Kahne qualified second in a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports with a lap at 128.995. Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin was third at 128.960.
Hamlin was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for criticizing the new Gen-6 car. He’s refusing to pay but said he won’t appeal the penalty, and NASCAR will collect the money from his race winnings. He addressed his decision not to appeal earlier Friday, and his qualifying run later allowed him to finally change the subject back to racing.
To have everything behind me is obviously a relief, Hamlin said. And just for my team’s sake, we need to focus on running as good as we can and trying to make this Chase.
Brian Vickers was fourth in a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, and Paul Menard was fifth in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Jamie McMurray was sixth in a Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing, and defending series champion Brad Keselowski was the highest qualifying Ford driver in seventh.
Tony Stewart was eighth and was followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano.
NASCAR driver Jeremy Clements was back at the track in Bristol after a two-week suspension for using a racial slur, hopeful his lapse in judgment hasn’t caused irreparable harm to his career.
I think everybody deserves a second chance, he said. I think you’ve got to look at the person’s history. I have never been in trouble with NASCAR. I always try to do the right thing and just stay here and be able to race. I always try to get new fans coming and do anything NASCAR wants. I hope it doesn’t hurt. I don’t know.
Clements made the remark during an interview at Daytona.
He was reinstated this week after seeing sports diversity expert Dr. Richard Lapchick and the staff at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.
In Gainesville, Fla., Cruz Pedregon raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Pedregon powered his Toyota Camry to the provisional No. 1 position with a performance of 4.047 seconds at 296.05 mph. If the effort holds through today’s final two qualifying sessions, it will be his fourth No. 1 at this event and the 51st of his career. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.