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April 27, 2024

Kyle Busch rolls to Busch Light Pole at Dover

First out for final qualifying and first on the scoring chart, Kyle Busch earned his first pole position of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season Saturday with a lap of 162.191 mph in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet around the 1-mile Dover Motor Speedway.

It’s the 34th career pole position for the two-time Cup Series champion and he’ll start on the front row for Sunday’s Wurth 400 (2 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) alongside Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, whose fast lap (161.951 mph) in the No. 12 Ford was a mere 0.033-second off Busch’s pole speed.

“The last month or so there’s definitely been a struggle with speed,” Busch said. “It’s pretty funny we were standing here talking about sitting on the pole last year too with the rainout and started first. And then my over-excitement of coming down pit road for the first time, speeding on pit road, sent us to the back and didn’t quite have the race we wanted.

“Don’t want to make that same mistake this year. The guys here did a great job. … we’re wanting to trend the right way and putting in the effort, the hours and all the extra work to figure out what’s going on and why. This is our first test. We felt like Dover and [next week’s venue] Kansas would be a really good test of some stuff. And what do ya know? It worked. Let’s go.”

This season’s three-race winner, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron will start his No. 24 Chevrolet third, alongside last week’s Talladega Superspeedway race winner, 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick in the No. 45 Toyota. Noah Gragson in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and former Dover winner, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will start fifth and sixth.

The Fords of SHR’s Chase Briscoe and last week’s Talladega polesitter, Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell were next fastest in qualifying, followed by Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman – the 2021 Dover winner – and Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger.

It was a strong qualifying outing for the Ford Mustang, which is still looking to score its first series victory of 2024. Not only were there four Fords in the top 10, but fellow Ford drivers Austin Cindric, Josh Berry and Joey Logano will line up 11th-13th on the 37-car grid.

RELATED: Sunday’s starting lineup | At-track photos: Dover

Of note, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell – a winner at Phoenix this year – spun on his qualifying lap and will have to start 33rd. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, an 11-time Dover winner, is making one of his limited season starts and will start the No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Toyota 27th. Defending race winner, JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. will start 15th.

And 21-year-old Corey Heim, who is making his Cup Series debut, filling in for injured Legacy Motor Club driver Erik Jones, will start the No. 43 Legacy Motor Club Toyota 32nd – a row ahead of the team’s full-time driver John Hunter Nemechek.

Heim was 14th fastest of the 16 cars in the opening practice but reasonably close on speed to the pack. Several of the veteran Cup Series drivers – former champion Kyle Larson and this year’s three-time race winner William Byron, in particular – were very complimentary of Heim, despite the young driver’s challenging circumstances.

“Just so much different, a lot of fun, a lot of grip,” Heim said after his first official practice in the car, adding, “Just trying to find my limits but in these 20-minutes practices, it’s tough.”

Jones spoke to the media at the track and said he is feeling better after a hard crash at Talladega last week that left him with a compression fracture in his lower vertebrae. He did not give a timetable for a return.

Blaney fastest in Cup Series practice

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney topped the leaderboard in practice at 159.468 mph over Tyler Reddick (158.983 mph) and William Byron (158.954 mph).

Chase Briscoe (158.479 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (158.444 mph) rounded out the top five.

Michael McDowell (158.284 mph), Ross Chastain (158.200 mph), Chase Elliott (158.165 mph), AJ Allmendinger (158.054 mph) and Chris Buescher (158.047 mph) completed the top 10.

MORE: Practice results

While Group A was incident-free, Group B had two incidents with the first involving Spire Motorsports rookie Zane Smith, who spun around in Turn 2 and suffered significant damage to the rear of the No. 71 Chevrolet.

Then, in the closing minutes of practice, Kaz Grala’s No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford got loose on the exit of Turn 4 and crashed head-on into the outside wall. Both drivers were evaluated and released from the track’s infield care center.