Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Chase Elliott powers to Busch Pole Award in Dover qualifying
DOVER, Del. — In a battle of Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Chase Elliott knocked William Byron off the pole for Sunday’s Gander RV 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), stealing the top starting spot late in Friday’s single-car qualifying at the 1-mile concrete track.
As expected with a new competition package that features a taller rear spoiler and consequent added downforce, Elliott set a track record at the Monster Mile, covering the distance in 21.692 seconds (165.960 mph) to eclipse Brad Keselowski’s 2014 track record mark of 21.892 seconds (164.444 mph).
In winning his first Busch Pole Award at Dover, his second of the season and the sixth of his career, Elliott was .053 seconds faster than Byron (165.555 mph), whose time stood up until Elliott, who drew the 30th qualifying position, ran his pole-winning lap.
Grabbing the top spot on the grid only added to an excellent week for Elliott, who claimed his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
“Team Hendrick is 1-2, which is awesome,” Elliott said. “Thanks to Chevrolet power and everybody that contributes to our car — they’ve been working hard. Hopefully, we can back it up on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a really tough race, so you better eat your Wheaties these next couple days and hydrate, because I think Sunday is going to be tough, especially if the sun’s out like it is right now.”
In fact, the sun made a huge difference in the speeds the Cup cars ran during qualifying. True, the top five qualifiers (Elliott, Byron, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Alex Bowman) all broke Keselowski’s previous track record, as Chevrolets swept the top three starting spots and four of the top five.
That was a far cry, however, from opening practice on Friday morning, when 23 cars eclipsed the record and Kurt Busch topped the speed chart at 168.445 mph in cooler conditions under overcast skies.
Elliott was more concerned about the pick of the No. 1 pit stall, closest to the exit from pit road. At Dover, that’s a distinct advantage.
“I think track position’s going to be key, and hopefully we can use it to our advantage,” Elliott said.
Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola qualified sixth and seventh, respectively, as NASCAR returned to the single-car format versus the group qualifying structure used earlier this year.
Denny Hamlin was eighth in the fastest Toyota, and Keselowski and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10 in their Fords, giving that manufacturer five of the top 10 starting spots.