LAS VEGAS – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell got back in his pole-qualifying good mojo mode Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – claiming the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 – his series-best sixth of the year and fourth in just the last eight races.
His No. 20 JGR Toyota turned a lap of 186.335 mph around the 1.5-mile Las Vegas high banks, securing the sixth pole for Toyota in the season’s seven NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races to date.
Bell will start alongside fellow Playoff driver Kyle Larson, whose No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was just a slight .010-second off the top speed.
“Qualifying has been really fun, really since the introduction of the Next Gen car – especially on the intermediate stuff — because it’s just right on the verge of holding your foot down and going wide open,” Bell said. “It’s right on the edge and it’s what I look for.”
Bell’s posted three top-10 finishes in seven Las Vegas starts, with a best showing of fifth place just this March. A member of the Championship 4 in 2022, he knows a win at Vegas on Sunday would give him an automatic second chance at the sport’s top prize.
“I know we may not be the championship favorite,” Bell added. “But I know we have everything we need to do it.”
“We’re in a good place.”
Six of the current eight playoff drivers advanced to final round qualifying on a coolish Saturday morning at the track. Current NASCAR Cup Series championship leader William Byron – who won at Las Vegas this March – will start his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy third, alongside Regular Season Champion Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 19 JGR Toyota. Byron holds a five-point edge on Truex atop the standings after a reset for this three-race round.
Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher – also a playoff driver – was fifth fastest in the No. 17 RFK Ford, followed by Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch, 23XI Racing teammates Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick – the latter also playoff-eligible.
Defending race winner and reigning series champion Joey Logano will start ninth and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain rounded out the top 10 drivers who advanced to final round qualifying.
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and JGR’s Denny Hamlin were the only playoff drivers who did not advance to that second round of time trials. Blaney will start 12th and Hamlin will start 15th on the 36-car grid.
JGR’s Ty Gibbs was the fastest qualifying rookie in 11th place.
Chastain fastest in Practice
Ross Chastain topped NASCAR Cup Series practice Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Chastain drove the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet right to the top of the single-lap speed chart, clocking in at 186.858 mph at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track. Chastain soared right to the top of the practice charts on his third lap, punching in a lap time of 28.899 seconds.
Playoff driver Chris Buescher showed great speed, being the second-fastest in practice in the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford. Tyler Reddick boasted a strong showing in practice as well, after claiming pole position last weekend in Charlotte. Reddick was fastest in his respective group and was third fastest overall.
Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliot and William Byron rounded out the top five in practice. Elliot suffered a blister on his right rear tire on Lap 15 of practice and ran hard into the wall out of the exit of Turn 3. He did not set a time for qualifying and will roll off 35th.
Daniel Suárez also found trouble in the practice session when he lost air in the right rear tire before spinning out. The No. 99 Trackhouse Racing driver did not set a time in qualifying and will start in the back with No. 9 of Elliott.