NASCAR at Dover: Rain puts Busch in top spot for Gander Outdoors 400

Crews push out cars before Monster Energy Cup qualifying at Dover International Speedway on Friday. Qualifying was canceled due to rain. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Judging from the speeds Kyle Busch was putting up during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session at Dover International Speedway on Friday morning he figured he had little shot at capturing the pole position.

It turned out that a pesky sprinkling rain changed Busch’s fate.

While the rain might have dampened the mood among the smattering of spectators, it put an optimistic Busch on the pole for Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 (2 p.m., NBCSN) at Dover as the starting lineup was set based on the car owner point standings.

“I probably gained six or eight spots (from my practice speeds) so I believe that definitely bodes well for us and our Interstate Batteries Camry,” Busch said. “I thought we had a decent car in practice with the way it felt.

Kyle Busch signs an autograph for a race fan in the garage. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“It felt pretty good it just didn’t show the speed on the speed charts, but as practice was kind of going on and guys were making their second and third (practice) runs they were kind of coming back to us in lap times, where our car was really consistent over the run.”

The drivers who are championship eligible in Sunday’s first race of the Round of 12 playoffs will comprise the first six rows of the starting grid.

Kevin Harvick will flank Busch in the second position, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer.

Kevin Harvick gets ready before Dover practice. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“We made two laps (in practice) and it was really fast in qualifying trim and that’s really the only thing that we did (Friday),” Harvick said. “Other than that, we haven’t done anything in race trim, but we should be fine.”

Kyle Larson, who will start from the 10th position on Sunday, soared to the top of the leaderboard during Friday morning’s practice session by turning the high-banked, one-mile oval at a top speed of 164.444 mph, which would have equaled the track qualifying record set in 2014 by Keselowski.

Larson was followed by Harvick at 163.451 mph, Kurt Busch (163.362 mph) and Chase Elliott (163.236 mph) during the practice session.
The high practice speeds certainly caught Busch’s attention.

“It’s certainly better for us not to have to go out there and bust off a really fast lap,” said Busch, a three-time winner at Dover. “Speeds were way high here this morning with the cooler temperatures and everything, it seemed like it was going to be way fast.

“I’m excited to be able to have the number one spot here going into Sunday and it’s a great opportunity to start off our Round of 12 and get ready to get rocking here.”

Starting up front on the treacherous confines of Dover has proven to be an advantage.

After all, 55 of the 96 races (57 percent) that have been run at the Monster Mile have been won from a top-five starting position, including 13 from the pole.

“This is one of the more challenging racetracks to pass on as of late,” Busch said. “The last couple of years here it’s been troublesome … I’m not sure why.

“Last fall was a good race. You could kind of move around and run low, run middle and run high, the rubber would move all around the racetrack, but this spring it was really mired to the bottom.”

Busch added, “It didn’t matter what you did, everybody was stuck on the bottom of the racetrack. Hopefully this time around it’ll move around a little bit and guys will have opportunities to race and if it’s doesn’t that bodes better for us being able to start up front the way we are.”

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