DOVER, Del. — The Toyota armada was red-hot on Friday afternoon, with Camry drivers sweeping the top four qualifying spots for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.
In the third and final round of qualifying, Kyle Busch put down a lap of 158.954 miles per hour in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, good enough to earn his first pole of the season and the 20th of his career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“To sit on the pole here means a little bit for us – it gives us a really good pit selection for Sunday and, more importantly, just gives us the track position right off the bat,” said Busch, who like his JGR teammates is looking for his first points-race win of the year.
Qualifying next to Busch on the outside of Row 1 was Mayetta, N.J., native Martin Truex Jr., who ran 158.877 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Truex won here last fall and nearly grabbed the pole this time out.
“I don’t think it really did anything, so all in all it was good,” Truex said of his qualifying lap. “Just trying to get it all out the last round. This place is – you’ve got be aggressive. You’ve got to charge and just overcharged entry to three just a hair and lost a little time there.”
Row 2 consisted of Busch’s teammates Daniel Suarez and Matt Kenseth. For Suarez, it was a career-best qualifying effort. Kenseth, meanwhile, is the defending event winner and has won three times at the Monster Mile.
As a group, the JGR Toyotas have clearly picked up performance in recent weeks.
“They’ve been working super hard in the last few months to try to get the speed back and definitely we have showed that in the last few weeks,” said Suarez. “We have good, fast race cars and I’m very happy for that.”
Completing the top five was Kyle Larson and his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Surprisingly, 10-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson didn’t make it to the final round of qualifying. He’ll start 14th in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, three spots behind his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The big shocker in the first of the three rounds of qualifying is that Joey Logano failed to advance, qualifying a hugely disappointing 26th. “We’re just lacking speed and we don’t know why,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
With qualifying complete, the teams will be back on track tomorrow at the Monster Mile. Saturday there will be two rounds of Cup practice, both of which will be televised live on FS1. The first one takes place at 9 a.m. and the second at 11:30 a.m.
gallery: Qualifying results, starting lineup for AAA Drive for Autism 400 at Dover