AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Chase Elliott won the pole Saturday for the NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway, his first pole of the season and ninth of his career.
Elliott made it around the 1-mile oval in 26.065 seconds. It’s the first time the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver has won a pole in Arizona. He’ll start Sunday’s race on the front row alongside nine-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick, who finished 0.045 seconds behind Elliott.
“We’ve been really close to a few poles out here the last three or four races,” Elliott said. “So it’s nice to actually get a pole. Unfortunately, Sunday hasn’t been as good for us, so hopefully that trend doesn’t continue this week and we can back it up with a really good run tomorrow.”
Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin qualified third, while Kyle Larson was fourth and current points leader Ryan Blaney was fifth. Hamlin won the fall race in Phoenix last year.
Elliott is trying to build on the momentum he gained with a fourth-place finish at Fontana last weekend. This week’s race has quite a bit of intrigue since NASCAR is debuting a new rules package for the sport’s short tracks, including a significantly smaller rear spoiler for the cars. NASCAR hopes the change will lead to more passing.
The race is also a preview for NASCAR’s championship round, which will return to Phoenix in November. Elliott said the new rules will take some getting used to, but it wouldn’t change the top contenders on Sunday.
“The same crowd’s always going to be tough — you know how it is,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t really matter how big the spoiler is. Hopefully, the race is better for the people watching, but I think the same guys will be good.”
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