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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 04, 2017 1:00 am

Kurt Busch leads a qualifying first

200-plus run in Texas sets mark on Cup circuit

STEPHEN HAWKINS | Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kurt Busch went faster than anyone has ever gone in NASCAR Cup qualifying on a 11/2-mile track. While out of championship contention and uncertain who he will drive for next season, he is still trying to win races.

“The sensation of speed is, it's unbelievable,” Busch said.

Busch averaged a record 200.915 mph on his only lap in the final round of qualifying Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Stewart-Haas driver was in one of the five cars that broke the 200-mph mark, with Denny Hamlin qualifying second and the highest of the remaining championship contenders.

“Development, that's the biggest thing. That's just the biggest thing,” Hamlin said, when asked about the high qualifying speeds. “And trust me, I don't know of any driver that is comfortable running at the speed we're running right now. Kevin Harvick walked by and as soon as that was over, he said, 'I'm glad that is over.' It's crazy speed.”

The top five all surpassed the previous qualifying record at the track, Tony Stewart's 200.111 mph before the fall race three years ago.

Hamlin qualified at 200.617 mph, with the others going over 200 mph on the high-banked track being Harvick (200.372 mph), Erik Jones (200.326 mph) and Kyle Busch (200.252 mph). Hamlin, Harvick and Kyle Busch, the only driver locked into a title shot at Homestead, are all championship contenders.

Martin Truex Jr., leading in points, qualified seventh at 199.431 mph, directly ahead of fellow title contenders Ryan Blaney (199.380 mph), Jimmie Johnson (198.727 mph) and Brad Keselowski (198.478 mph) in the eighth through 10th spots.

The only championship contender starting outside the top 10 was Chase Elliott, who was among seven drivers who didn't make any qualifying laps after not making it through tech inspection in time. He will start 34th on Sunday.