William Byron sweeps poles for both Charlotte Motor Speedway layouts
With a 80.932-second/103.198 mph lap in the second of two rounds of group elimination-style qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval” on Friday, William Byron claimed the pole for Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400, the final race in the first three-race round of the playoffs. Byron’s latest pole is his fifth pole of the season and the second of the year at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Charlotte native, as he also won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 on the facility’s traditional oval course in May.
“I think it’s just having the ability to be close with the car and just tune in on the little details,” Byron said. "We don’t really panic a lot when it comes to qualifying most of the time. If we’re close, we just try to fine tune. I feel like we do a good job in that space of fine tuning, whether it’s me or the car. We just kind of fine tune the little things, and that equals more speed. We knew we had to pick up from practice to probably get the pole, and we were able to do that. I think we just put the little details together well.”
Byron also was fastest in the opening round of qualifying with a session-leading 80.902-second/103.237 mph lap.
Alex Bowman qualified second to give Hendrick Motorsports a front-row sweep.
“That run wasn’t the best,” Bowman said. "I know it could have been better. William just did a great job, there, getting through the corners. It’s definitely a positive to be starting on the front row, and we just have to focus on getting stage points on Sunday. Very proud of this Nationwide #REALtirement team and the hard work they put in today.”
A third playoff driver, Joey Logano, qualified third.
“Unfortunately, it’s not first-place, but I thought we were good enough in practice for the pole,” Logano said. ”I thought I had a decent lap going. I hit the curb in six and got loose. That’s probably where most of my speed was. The difference was only a little under a tenth-and-a-half, which isn’t much when you add up 80 turns around this place, so we’ll start from third and go from there.”
Jimmie Johnson, after posting the fastest lap in Friday’s only practice, qualified fourth, the highest among non-playoff drivers, to give Hendrick Motorsports three cars in the first two rows of Sunday’s starting grid.
“The car had a little bit more pace in it,” Johnson said. “I got a little too excited and tried too hard for a pole. I know there were two areas that I left some speed on the table. It’s such a technical track, and the risk versus reward battle here is a tough one. You can lose so much, and I definitely know I left some time on the table in two spots.”
Johnson was one of three non-playoff drivers to advance to the 12-driver second and final round of qualifying. Other non-playoff drivers to qualify inside the top-12 were Paul Menard in 10th and Chris Buescher in 12th.
Other top-12 qualifiers included Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick in fifth and sixth, Kyle Larson in seventh, Martin Truex Jr. in eighth and Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski in ninth and 11th.
A fourth Hendrick driver, Chase Elliott, was among the playoff drivers who didn’t advance beyond the first round of qualifying. After getting off-track in one of the Roval chicanes, Elliott wound up 19th.
Meanwhile, the lowest-qualifying playoff driver was Denny Hamlin. Hamlin wound up 28th, but he already knew he’d be starting in the back, anyway, as he was in a backup car because of a practice crash.
Parker Kligerman also went to the back after a practice crash Friday.