Kyle Larson edges Chase Elliott for Bristol pole

Larson ended up fastest in all three rounds of Friday’s knockout qualifying, using an average lap speed of 127.792 mph to win the pole for Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops 500.

The pole is his third of the year, seventh of his career and first at Bristol. Larson started first in the 2017 spring race at Bristol but the field was set by owner points when qualifying was rained out.

“It’s always good to qualify well but this is my favorite race track so it’s nice to start out front and hopefully we can lead a lot of laps tomorrow and finally close on of these things out,” Larson said.

“I’ve been close so many times. I feel like I’ve ran second or third and led the most laps here so many times. Hopefully this is the weekend that we can close it out. I feel like I have two really good cars, both for the Xfintiy Series and here tomorrow as well.”

Larson’s previous best finish at Bristol in nine starts was second in this year’s spring race.

Chase Elliott ended up second (127.665 mph) and Kyle Busch – who won the spring race – was third (127.639 mph). Paul Menard was fourth and rookie William Byron completed the top-five.

“You have to be really close to perfect, if not perfect here,” Elliott said. It’s so hard to be good for 500 laps, but that’s what it takes. I really wanted that first pit box, that makes such a huge difference here. If there’s any place that makes a difference, it’s here.”

Rounding out the Top 12 starters are Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Round 2

Larson was the first car on the track in the second round but didn’t begin his lap until just under four minutes remained in the session.

He still ended up with the fastest average lap of the session, coming in at 127.631 mph. Menard was second (127.123 mph) and Kyle Busch was third (126.972 mph). Keselowski and Hamlin completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Elliott, Kurt Busch, Harvick, Blaney, Byron, Almirola and Stenhouse.

“I lost all kinds of grip with the right front,” Stenhouse said over his team radio following his run.

Among those who failed to advance were Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Alex Bowman, who tagged the wall during his qualifying run.

“We were really fast in the first round and it just didn’t transfer over to the second round,” Jones said. “We’ll have some cars to pass tomorrow night. We’ll work from behind but I think we’ll be fine.”

Round 1

Larson set a blistering pace in the first round and his average lap speed of 127.946 mph was the fastest lap run so far on Friday.

Elliott ended up second (127.098 mph) and Blaney third (126.955 mph). Stenhouse and Suarez completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Johnson, Jones, McMurray, Hamlin and Bayne.

Among those who failed to advance to Round 2 were A.J. Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, Kasey Kahne, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ty Dillon.

“It was good on the bottom and we were able to run some good laps up top. We’ll get some speed going and get some momentum and try to keep moving forward,” Buescher said.

“We have something I feel like we can move around. The PJ1 ran out real quickly. Just trying to figure out how to get more qualifying speed. I think our race speed is good.”

Most of the cars waited until there was just over seven minutes left in the 15-minute first round before they ventured out on the track to make their qualifying runs.

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