Through NASCAR’s formula for setting race starting grids that takes into account the owner points standings and the previous race’s finishing results and fastest laps, Brad Keselowski parlayed his win at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25 into the pole for Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Despite being the NASCAR Cup Series points leader by a significant margin, Denny Hamlin will start 20th at Kansas as a result of a finish outside the top-30 at Talladega. Hamlin is the defending winner of the spring race at Kansas and victor of two of the three most recent races there.
“Talladega is behind us already,” Hamlin said. “We’re going back to a mile-and-a-half where we have a little more control over our own destiny than at a superspeedway. We’ll be ready to get things back on track and perform the way we have been all year.”
Ford drivers will line up in four of the top-five positions on Sunday’s starting grid. The only non-Ford driver starting in the top-five will be Chevrolet’s William Byron, who’ll share the front row with Keselowski.
“All 1.5-mile tracks are definitely not the same,” Byron said. “Kansas is probably the most similar to Las Vegas [where Byron won earlier this season], but even in that aspect, Kansas has less grip. It’s a very temperature-sensitive race track. You have to be able to run the bottom effectively but, then, be able to run the top lane just as strong the longer the race goes along. I think we were good in both races last year, but I think the June race was the best shot we have had at winning there. I’m excited to get back and see what we can do this time.”
Other drivers starting in the top-five include Michael McDowell and Kevin Harvick in row two and Matt DiBenedetto in the third row in position five.
“I think we would all like to qualify and have it kind of how we used to have it in that regard, but I think this is the fairest way that you can do it based on our limited schedule,” McDowell said. ”Basing it just on points, I feel like that can put you in a real slump too, where you’re running good but those first five races — like Aric Almirola had a lot of issues those first five races. He would start in the back every single race for a majority of the year because of that, and then, that snowballs. Track position is so important, and you can’t get stage poin, and you just never get out of that hole, so I feel like having the formula that we have that has a percentage of the points and a percentage of your last race is good. It goes both ways. When you have a bad day, you’re like, ‘Oh, man, I’m gonna start pretty far back there.’ But when you have a good one, you know that that’s gonna help you the next few weeks. Is it ideal? I think it’s ideal for our current schedule and situation, but I think from a sport standpoint, we’d all like to go back to qualifying and have it be as legitimate as possible.”
Christopher Bell will be the highest-starting Toyota driver in eighth.
Other top-10 starters include Austin Dillon in sixth, Ryan Blaney in seventh, Kyle Busch in ninth and Cole Custer in 10th. Busch starts Sunday’s race with a Kansas weekend win already under his belt, claiming victory Saturday night in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race there.
“Brexton [Busch, son] races tomorrow, so he better bring home a win like I brought home a win. Hopefully he can do it, hopefully we can do it,” Busch said. “I just want to say hi to my family back home.”
BUSCHY McBUSCH RACE STARTING LINEUP