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Kyle Busch Wins Pole; Looking Contender-Like At Charlotte

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 10 2014

Kyle Busch is on a roll. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Kyle Busch won the pole for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a lap at 197.300 mph (27.357 seconds) on Friday and in doing so, looked and sounded very much like a driver capable of winning a championship.

Busch’s lap nipped Jeff Gordon (197.217 mph), who will start second.

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate qualified third at 197.087 mph in a session that saw 21 drivers in the first round break Hamlin’s previous track record of 195.624 mph, set in May of 2013.

Tony Stewart (196.542 mph), the only non-Chase driver in the top five, will start fourth, followed by Ryan Newman (196.442 mph).

Busch will start the Charlotte race second in points – six behind Joey Logano of Team Penske. He will also start with a decent breeze at his back as he has logged top-10 finishes in all four Chase races. He even left Kansas Speedway – the track he has called his least favorite – with a third-place finish.

After winning the Charlotte pole, it was an upbeat and confident Kyle Busch who met the media.

“So far we’re carrying our momentum through the Chase here so it feels pretty good,” Busch, who despite having won 29 Cup races in his career, has never won a championship, said. “It started at Chicago and Loudon and Dover – top-10s in each of those places and Kansas coming home with a top-five and here to Charlotte, one of my favorite places.

“To come out of here early in the weekend and be on top of the sheets, that feels good. We always want to be there, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of smarts by all these guys on my team. The Doublemint Camry was awesome today and didn’t unload as good as we wanted to, but right there when it mattered most we were pretty good. Excited about that and ready to go for a couple practices tomorrow and get ready for Saturday night.”

CMS is one of the few places where Busch has not won a Cup race. But he has won eight Nationwide and six Camping World events at the 1.5-mle tri-oval in Concord, N.C., so, he said, it’s a comfort-zone place.

He said it would “be perfect” to get his first victory at CMS this weekend.

The Chase in general has been two and a half months of pain for Busch in the past. His best finish is fourth. His worst is last.

But this year, he said, things feel good. Especially because of the new elimination format.

“With the way the eliminations are, yes I would believe we’re edging our way towards the top,” Busch said. “Anything can happen in this game. I believe it’s a fickle business so you just have to pick through it all and 500 miles here at Charlotte, we hope to have a good race here. We have had good races here in the past and first things first, you shoot for top-10 and then you shoot for top-five and if you’re in position you try to go after that victory and punch your ticket right on through and get yourself automatically into the eliminator round. That would certainly feel good for everybody at JGR.”

Speaking of JGR: Busch said the entire organization is making progress.

“We certainly have been fighting really hard at Joe Gibbs Racing to get ourselves up to running with the level of competition that we’ve been seeing from our competitors,” he said. “The Penske guys and a couple of the Hendrick cars — it hasn’t been the whole company. The 24 (Gordon) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Logano) have really been the cars to beat this year.

“Looking at those four you automatically punch those four all the way through to the end and those are the guys that are going to be racing for the championship. Anything happens and there was a few bad races for a few guys last race in Kansas and for us now it’s just about trying to come out of here with a solid finish at Charlotte and put ourselves in the best position possible that we can head into next week for Talladega.”

Hamlin, fifth in points, said his qualifying run Friday is a good sign as the Chase hits the half way point.

“We feel better about things obviously,” Hamlin said, “but you’re living week to week now. Your situation changes so much from week to week depending on what your situation is and points and how your day is going that you can go from having a lot of confidence to feeling like you’re going to be left out with one mistake and one race. Obviously I am encouraged about how we are running at some of these tracks that haven’t been our best in the past knowing that we’re getting to those last four race tracks that we feel very, very comfortable with. I’m hoping we continue this trend line up and it’s heading in the right direction, I just hope it keeps going because we’re going to need that little bit of extra speed when we get to these last four.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 10 2014
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