William Byron claims fourth pole of season at Darlington Raceway for Southern 500
William Byron’s 28.51-second/172.487 mph lap around Darlington Raceway during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying Saturday was the fastest lap by a Cup Series driver, to that point, in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend.
The lap held that distinction through the entire qualifying session to garner Byron the pole for Sunday’s Southern 500. It was Byron’s fourth pole of the season and the third in the three “crown jewel” races [Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500], so far, this season. He became only the third driver in NASCAR history to win poles for three “crown jewel” races in the same season, the other two being Glenn “Fireball” Roberts and Bill Elliott.
“Everything has gone smooth for us, so far, this weekend, and hopefully, that continues into the race,” Byron said. “The race is, ultimately, what matters, but qualifying is a good start, especially having the number one pit stall.”
Brad Keselowski qualified second to start next to Byron on the front row. Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch qualified third and fourth for second-row starting spots.
“For us, I thought it was a good lap,” Busch said. “Everything seemed to match up. We ran a fast lap in practice yesterday; we just didn’t pick up as much as everyone else did. That half of a tenth adds up quick in qualifying. We have a really good race car with the downforce that’s on it, and we weren’t too trimmed out, so to speak, for a run at the pole. We were really digging hard to get another pole at the Southern 500. Fourth is a good spot to be, and we’ll go from there.”
Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five in qualifying.
"We made a decent lap, there,” Johnson said. "We’ve picked up from what we had in practice, and we are ready to go.”
Byron was the fifth of 39 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, so he was the provisional pole sitter through most of the qualifying session. When he went out, he knocked Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson from the provisional pole.
Chevrolet and Ford drivers dominated the top-five, with Denny Hamlin being the only Toyota to crack the top-10 of the final race starting order by qualifying ninth. Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch wound up 33rd by the end of qualifying because of an engine issue. Busch’s team changed the engine, so he'll a few more positions, all the way to the back, for the green flag.
Daniel Suarez qualified sixth, Joey Logano seventh, Chase Elliott was eighth, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-10.
“Not fast enough,” Logano said. “We’re seventh, and I’d rather be further ahead. We’ll fight from there. I don’t see any reason why we can’t drive to the front from there. I think we’ll be okay. We’ve had some pretty good runs here in the past recently, so we just have to get through it and be there at the end. We’ll be fine.”