Chase Elliott leads Hendrick Motorsports dominance of Talladega Superspeedway qualifying
Hendrick Motorsports put on a qualifying clinic at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, led by Chase Elliott. Elliott’s 49.692-second/192.707 mph lap in Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session was good enough to give him the pole for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500, his fourth pole of the season.
“We had a really fast NAPA Night Vision Camaro, there,” Elliott said. "It was really faster than I was expecting it to be today, which is nice. And Alan [Gustafson, crew chief] and our team do such a good job at these places. Really, Hendrick, as a whole, and our body shop and our engine shop doing the job that they do coming to these places and have fast race cars and really, it’s kind of on them. So I’m really proud of the effort. It was a tough week last week, obviously, so it’s just nice to come back and get a pole. Obviously, it’s a long race and anything can happen. So we’ve got to take advantage of a good pit pick, and we’ll go to work from there and see what happens.”
Hendrick Motorsports claimed the top-four positions on the starting grid, with Alex Bowman next to Elliott on the front row and William Byron and Jimmie Johnson in the second row in third and fourth.
“I’ve got three teammates behind you, but then, not a lot of Chevrolets back behind that for a little while. So there are a bunch of other guys stacked in between us, so we’ll see. I’m sure these games will be played pretty early. And, hopefully, we can stay up front and grab some stage points and, hopefully, get a win.”
Elliott was the first driver to post a qualifying lap over 192 mph. Byron became the second a few cars later. All four Hendrick cars went out in the second half of qualifying, and Elliott, Byron and Johnson were first through third on the speed chart before Bowman wedged himself among his teammates, knocking Byron and Johnson each down a position.
Ford drivers claimed the other six starting spots inside the top-10, with Aric Almirola the fastest non-Hendrick driver in fifth. Among the Ford contingent in the second half of the top-10 in qualifying were all three Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski in sixth, Ryan Blaney ninth and reigning series champion Joey Logano in 10th.
Other top-10 qualifiers included Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in seventh and Clint Bowyer in eighth.
Erik Jones was the highest-qualifying Toyota in 11th. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin was all the way in the back of the grid in 40th after suffering an engine problem during his qualifying attempt.
“Broke an engine halfway down the backstretch,” Hamlin told the Motor Racing Network.
The other two JGR drivers, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, qualified 18th and 26th, respectively.
Ryan Newman and Almirola each were on the provisional pole before Elliott went out 27th and made his lap would eventually lead to the pole. By the end of qualifying Newman was 13th.