Almirola beats Stenhouse for Atlanta Cup pole

Aric Almirola denied his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer the top prize Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Almirola beats Stenhouse for Atlanta Cup pole

Bowyer was the fastest in the lone practice session Friday, then topped the first two rounds of knockout qualifying before Almirola raced to the top of the leaderboard in the final round.

Almirola’s average lap speed of 181.472 mph ended up the fastest lap of the day and he won the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta.

The pole is the second of Almirola’s career and first of the new season.

“It’s cool to be the first guy to put the Ford Mustang on the pole,” Almirola said. “We’re running wide-open now, so it’s getting more and more about the car now in qualifying.

“It’s the engineers and all the guys who work on the cars. It’s about details. As the rules get tighter and tighter, it’s really about all the little things, all the little details.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ended up second (180.428 mph) and Bowyer was third (180.410 mph). Denny Hamlin will start fourth and Daniel Suarez fifth.

Rounding out the Top 12 starters are Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson and Michael McDowell.

At start of the final round, Bowyer and Dillon ended up drag racing down pit road to be the first out on the track. Neither of them ended up benefiting from the move.

Round 2

Bowyer and his SHR teammates continued their dominance in the second round.

Bowyer again topped the session with an average lap speed of 180.504 mph, followed by Saurez (180.316 mph) and Almirola (180.164 mph). McDowell and Larson completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Stenhouse, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Truex and Johnson.

Among those who failed to advance was last year’s race winner, Kevin Harvick – the only SHR car not to make it to the final round.

“It’s been a rough day. We’ve changed everything on the car and nothing has fixed it,” Harvick said of a steering problem that plagued him both in practice and in qualifying.

Also not advancing were Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Matt DiBenedetto.

Round 1

Bowyer, who was fastest in Friday’s lone practice session, led the way in the first 10-minute knockout qualifying session.

Bowyer’s average lap speed of (180.733 mph) topped his SHR teammate Almirola (179.778 mph). Newman ended up third (179.737 mph). Larson was fourth and Austin Dillon completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 12 were Jones, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, McDowell, Johnson, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Corey LaJoie.

Among those who failed to advance to Round 2 were Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece and Chris Buescher.

“Just out there running full throttle and just wasn’t fast enough,” Blaney said.

The No. 36 Ford of Matt Tifft and No. 52 Chevrolet of B.J. McLeod both failed pre-qualifying inspection twice and both teams had their car chief ejected for the remainder of the weekend. Each team will also lose 15 minutes of practice on Saturday.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Time Gap Mph
1 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 30.550   181.473
2 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 30.727 0.177 180.428
3 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 30.730 0.180 180.410
4 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 30.744 0.194 180.328
5 41 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Ford 30.763 0.213 180.216
6 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 30.810 0.260 179.942
7 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 30.827 0.277 179.842
8 1 United States Kurt Busch  Chevrolet 30.835 0.285 179.796
9 19 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 30.852 0.302 179.697
10 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 30.869 0.319 179.598
11 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 30.900 0.350 179.417
12 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 30.915 0.365 179.330
13 6 United States Ryan Newman  Ford 30.906 0.356 179.383
14 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 30.908 0.358 179.371
15 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 30.929 0.379 179.249
16 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 30.952 0.402 179.116
17 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 30.979 0.429 178.960
18 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 30.991 0.441 178.891
19 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 30.998 0.448 178.850
20 95 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Toyota 31.029 0.479 178.672
21 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 31.048 0.498 178.562
22 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 31.061 0.511 178.487
23 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 31.111 0.561 178.201
24 32 United States Corey Lajoie  Ford 31.148 0.598 177.989
25 47 United States Ryan Preece  Chevrolet 31.097 0.547 178.281
26 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 31.119 0.569 178.155
27 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 31.145 0.595 178.006
28 8 United States Daniel Hemric  Chevrolet 31.156 0.606 177.943
29 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 31.196 0.646 177.715
30 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 31.323 0.773 176.995
31 36 United States Matt Tifft  Ford 31.376 0.826 176.696
32 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 31.502 0.952 175.989
33 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 31.512 0.962 175.933
34 96 United States Parker Kligerman  Toyota 31.534 0.984 175.810
35 77 United States Garrett Smithley  Chevrolet 32.598 2.048 170.072
36 51 Cody Ware  Chevrolet 32.950 2.400 168.255
37 52 United States B.J. McLeod  Chevrolet  
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Series NASCAR Cup
Event Atlanta
Author Jim Utter
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