Back to News

March 11, 2023

Kyle Larson claims Phoenix pole for Cup Series race

Kyle Larson won the Busch Light Pole Award for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Larson wheeled his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a pole speed of 130.237 mph, besting Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin for the top spot on the starting grid by just 0.065 seconds.

RELATED: Full Phoenix starting lineup | At-track photos: Phoenix

Larson’s teammate William Byron will start third with a lap average speed of 129.922 mph alongside RFK Racing co-owner and driver Brad Keselowski in fourth at 129.762 mph. JGR’s Christopher Bell rounded out the top five at 129.580 mph.

The pole award is Larson’s first of the season, with his most recent quick time coming at Martinsville Speedway last October. His last Phoenix pole came in November 2021, when he piloted the No. 5 team to the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“It means a lot. Qualifying is really important here,” said Larson, who was also quickest in Friday’s practice session. “We got the pole in 2021 and that really helped us win the championship race. Joey [Logano] had an extremely fast car in the fall last year, but he got the pole as well and won. So I think that number one pit stall means a lot.

“Happy to be quick this weekend; quick in practice and have it translate to qualifying.”

Completing the top 10 in the starting grid were Ross Chastain, Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.

The quick times posted by Larson and Byron came despite some trouble for Hendrick Motorsports cars on Friday. NASCAR officials confiscated the hood louvers from each of the four Hendrick entries, including those from Alex Bowman and Josh Berry. The sanctioning body will bring those back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, for further evaluation but the team was levied no penalty yet.

NASCAR also announced that the No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet driven by Justin Haley had its louvers confiscated during pre-qualifying inspection on Saturday. Similarly to the Hendrick situation, no penalty was announced.

Cup teams are debuting a new rules package configuration at Phoenix on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), featuring a 30% reduction in downforce. Larson credited his team, led by crew chief Cliff Daniels, with the homework done to prepare for this weekend’s 312-lap contest.

In the first round of qualifying, Larson was over two-tenths of a second quicker than the next-fastest vehicle, but the gap shrunk notably in the pole round.

“Looking at SMT, I felt like my ability to roll some center-corner speed in (turns) one and two kind of gave me a little bit of an advantage,” Larson said. “There’s definitely some cars that are better than me in (turns) three and four, but we’re all so competitive over there too. I feel like there’s a lot of room behind the wheel to get a lot better in three and four. I think my car is fine. I think I just need to do some things different and get even better in three and four and then we should be really good.”

MORE: Recap Friday’s practice session | Phoenix schedule

Daniel Suárez will start 11th in the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, failing to advance to the pole round by just 0.004 seconds to teammate Chastain. The Fords of Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing were fast in Friday’s 50-minute practice session, but only one of those seven entries — Ryan Blaney — advanced to the top 10 in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Kevin Harvick of SHR was the quickest of the remaining six in 15th place with Penske’s Joey Logano 16th. Harvick is eyeing his 20th consecutive top-10 finish at Phoenix, which would extend the Cup Series record he holds of most consecutive top 10s at one track.

Chase Briscoe, Harvick’s teammate at SHR, will roll off from the 24th position on Sunday. Briscoe scored his first career Cup victory in March 2022 at Phoenix.