Talladega, Ala. — Kurt Busch led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep to put all four of the company cars up front at Talladega Superspeedway for a critical playoff race.
Busch turned a lap at 195.804 mph to qualify in the top spot for Sunday’s race. He edged teammate Clint Bowyer, who qualified second, ahead of Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola as the Ford horsepower built by Doug Yates’ engine shop proved superior in qualifying.
“Four Stewart-Haas Racing Fords up front, I’m just happy I had the fastest one,” said Busch, who won his first career pole at either Daytona or Talladega, the two biggest and fastest tracks in NASCAR.
All four SHR drivers are still part of the 12-driver championship field, which will be trimmed by four following next weekend’s race at Kansas. Almirola and Bowyer are tied for ninth on the playoff grid, barely holding on to transfer positions.
“I’ve got to beat and differentiate and separate myself from my teammate, Aric, we’re both 10 points out,” Bowyer said. “I’ve got to capitalize on that somehow and close that gap here.”
Hendrick Motorsports had the next fastest fleet as the Chevrolets from Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman and William Byron qualified in slots five through eight.
“All four guys in the top 12 is a strong showing for us,” Byron said. “Qualifying doesn’t reflect totally on how things will shake out Sunday and how you are going to race. But it should be fine. With the four of us together at the start, we have an opportunity to stay in front of some of the possible situations.”
The Toyota group followed as Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin qualified ninth and 10th, followed by reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr.
“We certainly qualified better that we expected to,” said Kyle Busch. “The guys that qualified good are the ones you would expect to.”
The remaining four playoff drivers were Brad Keselowski (18th), Ryan Blaney (19th), Joey Logano (20th) and Kyle Larson (34th).
Timothy Peters has won the Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway after spinning leader Noah Gragson out of his way on the final lap, then blocking traffic as he rushed to the checkered flag.
It was the 11th victory of Peters’ career and third at Talladega, the most wins at the Alabama track among Truck Series drivers.
Peters didn’t lead until the final lap of Saturday’s crash-packed playoff race.
Chris Fontaine was running second when he triggered a 10-truck accident with 36 laps remaining. That set up a red flag stoppage of nearly 12 minutes and more wrecks throughout the field.
Todd Gilliland was second when he tried to pass leader Grant Enfinger with 12 laps remaining and contact between the trucks caused Gilliland to spin hard into the inside wall. Six laps later, Enfinger was knocked from the lead by Gilliland’s father, David, who was in second. The contact caused damage to David Gilliland’s truck and Gragson was able to take over the lead — until Peters moved him for the win.
Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen were eliminated from the playoff field. The six drivers still in title contention are Gragson, Enfinger, Johnny Sauter, Justin Haley, Matt Crafton and Brett Moffitt.