Kyle Busch earned the pole for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Bristol, Tenn., and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw was second in qualifying.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Count Kyle Busch among those who like NASCAR’s new car.
Of course, a track record is bound to draw praise from a driver.
Busch won his first Bristol Motor Speedway pole Friday with a lap in his Toyota at 129.535 mph, beating Ryan Newman’s 10-year-old track record of 128.709.
Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw was second in qualifying at 128.995. The Food City 500, a Sprint Cup Series race, is Sunday.
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“This new car, I like driving it because you can drive it like the older car we had years ago where you could just abuse it a little bit and drive it a little harder,” Busch said. “The old car was all about being smooth and precise and this one here, you can make a little bit more speed by trying a little bit harder.”
Busch was one of nine drivers to go under 15 seconds for a qualifying lap at the 0.533-mile track, and his time of 14.813 seconds is a record.
Kahne said he felt as if he had a shot at beating Busch’s mark.
“I knew Kyle had put down a great lap and a track record, so I knew I had to go pretty hard,” Kahne said. “I just felt like I may have given up a little bit in (Turns) 1 and 2, which would have made it really close for the pole.”
Busch’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, was third at 128.960.
“I think we’re going to see one of the best races we’ve ever seen in a long time here,” Hamlin said.
That’s an about-face for Hamlin, who was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for criticizing the new Gen-6 car. He is refusing to pay, but said he won’t appeal; NASCAR will collect the money from his race winnings.
Hamlin said he believes NASCAR officials were disrespectful by not contacting him before imposing the fine.
Hamlin contends a bigger-name driver would have at least received a courtesy call beforehand.
“That was the biggest complaint I had. If I was Jeff Gordon or Tony (Stewart), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., or any Hendrick driver, they would have had a conversation before,” Hamlin said. “Just to slap the fine on me and not tell me anything is what really, really bugged me. A lot.
“That felt like I had not earned my place in this sport, and I’ve grinded it out here for eight years and I really feel like I’ve done what it takes to earn the respect of both my peers and NASCAR. I feel like had I been somebody else, the outcome may have been different.”