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William Byron rates at the Roval, blasts to fifth Busch Pole of the season

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CONCORD, N.C. – William Byron has the knack at his home track, even if the two configurations at Charlotte Motor Speedway are vastly different.

A Charlotte native, Byron won the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte back in May on the traditional 1.5-mile oval. On Friday, Byron toured Charlotte’s Roval — a 2.32-mile, 17-turn road course — in 80.932 seconds (103.198 mph) to earn the top starting spot for Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

In winning his fifth Busch Pole Award of the season and the fifth of his career, Byron edged Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman (103.078 mph) by .094 seconds. Byron and Bowman are 12th and 13th, respectively, in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, with the playoff field to be cut to the top 12 drivers after the first-round elimination race.

Byron was quickest despite a brush with the wall in the final chicane.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to fix a quarter panel,” Byron said. “I kind of missed that one, but I was trying to get all I could. I knew I was a little bit weak under the brakes the first couple of runs in Q-trim today, so I tried to fix it and maybe fixed it a little bit too good. … I almost blew it in the last chicane, locking up the tires.

“But the guys did a great job with this car, and it really takes every corner around this race track to get a pole. I knew we could qualify top five, but I really wanted the pole and really kind of went out there and got it. So I’m really proud of this UniFirst team, it’s going to be great to start up front.”

Three of Byron’s poles this season have come at crown jewel races on the Cup circuit: the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Bowman acknowledged his teammate’s prowess in the No. 24 Chevrolet.

“That run wasn’t the best,” Bowman said of his own attempt in the final round. “I know it could have been better. William just did a great job there getting through the corners. It’s definitely a positive to be starting on the front row, and we just have to focus on getting stage points on Sunday.”

Joey Logano (103.037 mph) qualified third and will start next to fourth-place Jimmie Johnson, the third of three Hendrick drivers in the top four and the only driver in the top nine not currently in the playoffs. Clint Bowyer claimed the fifth spot on the grid, followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick.

Kyle Larson was sixth in time trials, with Martin Truex Jr., the winner of the first two races in the opening round of the playoffs, grabbing the eighth position. Truex is the only Toyota driver to qualify in the top 14.

Ryan Blaney was ninth, followed by Paul Menard, playoff driver Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher, who’s 2020 move from JTG-Daugherty Racing to Roush Fenway Racing was announced this week.

Other playoff drivers qualified as follows: Erik Jones 15th, Kyle Busch 17th, Chase Elliott 19th after a spin in the first round of time trials, Kurt Busch 23rd, Ryan Newman 24th and Denny Hamlin 28th after wrecking in Turn 5 during practice and going to a backup car. Because of the car change, Hamlin will drop to the rear of the field for the start of the race.