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February 24, 2024

Michael McDowell rolls to career-first Busch Light Pole at Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. – Michael McDowell and Joey Logano performed their own version of “Trading Places” during NASCAR Cup Series time trials on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

After finishing second to Logano in qualifying for the season-opening Daytona 500, McDowell will start his 467th Cup race from a position he has never occupied before – first on the grid – with Logano beside him in second.

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Having won the first Busch Light Pole Award of his career, McDowell will lead the field to green in Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at the 1.54-mile track (3 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

All told, seven Fords and three Chevrolets comprised the top 10 in the qualifying session.

The only driver to break the 31-second mark, McDowell posted a time of 30.999 seconds (178.844 mph) in the final round of time trials, beating second-place Logano (178.424 mph) by 0.073 seconds.

Kyle Busch (178.235 mph) earned the third starting position, with Todd Gilliland, McDowell’s teammate at Front Row Motorsports, claiming the fourth spot at 178.080 mph.

“That’s awesome,” McDowell said after topping the session. “Two weeks in a row, we sat on the front row. We need to back that up with a good result (on Sunday). We’ve got both cars in the top five, so that’s awesome.”

Kyle Larson, defending series champion Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Austin Dillon will start the Ambetter Health 400 from fifth through 10th, respectively.

For the second straight race, no Toyotas advanced to the top 10 in qualifying, though Martin Truex’s 12th-place effort on Saturday was an improvement from Daytona, where Erik Jones was the fastest Camry driver in time trials at 22nd.

Daytona 500 winner William Byron missed the final round by 0.002 seconds (behind Hendrick teammate Larson.

The 400-miler (260 laps) is the second race of the Cup Series season.

Contributing: Staff reports