Paul Menard takes surprise pole at Chicagoland

A Ford at the top of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying was not a surprise but the driver certainly was.

Paul Menard takes surprise pole at Chicagoland
Paul Menard, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Discount Tire
Paul Menard, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Fusion Menards / Richmond
Paul Menard, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Fusion Menards / Richmond
Paul Menard, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Fusion Menards / Richmond

Paul Menard rocked to the top of the leaderboard in the final round of Saturday’s qualifying session, picking up speed where others dropped off. Menard’s average lap speed of 180.012 mph judged edged Ryan Blaney (179.880 mph) to win the pole for Sunday’s Overton’s 400.

Earlier in the day, fellow Ford drivers Blaney and Brad Keslowski had led the two practice sessions at Chicagoland Speedway.

Chase Elliott ended up third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Kurt Busch completed the top five.

Rounding out the Top 12 starters are Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Martin Truex Jr.

The pole is just Menard’s second in the series in 416 starts. His only previous pole came in 2008 at the July Daytona race.

“My guys did a hell of a job today,” Menard said of his No. 21 Wood Brothers team. “We weren’t very good in practice. We did a mock qualifying run and I was so loose that I aborted it. So, we never really got a true mock run.

“We got a little too loose in Round 2, adjusted for it and Round 3 drove like Round 1. The track is hard on tires but the sun is going down, it’s getting a little cooler. I just hit my marks and Greg (Irwin, crew chief) and the guys made good adjustments.”

Inspection issues

Four teams had their times disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection. They were Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Chris Buescher. All will have to start from the rear of the field on Sunday.

Additionally, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will keep his official starting spot but moves to the rear on the pace laps for an unapproved adjustment.

Round 2

Suarez surprised in Round 2 vaulting to the top of the leaderboard with best lap so far of the session (180.668 mph).

Bowyer ended up second (179.868 mph) and Kurt Busch third (179.641 mph). Elliott and Almirola completed the top five.

Also advancing to the final round were Blaney, Menard, Byron, Hamlin, Keselowski, Truex and Jones. Elliott and Byron were the only Chevrolet drivers to make the cut.

Among those who failed to advance were Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.

“We were just too loose. We changed a lot from practice,” said Harvick, who will line up 13th on Sunday.

Said Bowman over his team radio: “I couldn't get committed to the throttle in (Turn) 2.” His crew chief, Greg Ives, replied, “Sorry about that, we should have been better.”

Round 1

Three drivers who had competed in Saturday afternoon’s Xfinity Series race led the way in the first round.

Menard posted the fastest average lap speed (180.120 mph). He was followed by Harvick and Elliott. Logano and Kurt Busch completed the top-five.

Elliott even made a trip to the infield care center before the start of qualifying to receive some IV fluids. High temperatures sent several drivers seeking medical attention following the Xfinity race.

Among those who failed to advance to the second round were Trevor Bayne, Darrell Wallace Jr., David Ragan, Ty Dillon and Kasey Kahne.

“We got through (Turns) 1 and 2 OK and then I gave up a lot of time in Turn 3,” Bayne said. “I’m glad to be back at the race track.”

Veteran Matt Kenseth has replaced Bayne in most of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford’s races in the second half of the season as the organization attempts to find ways to improve performance.

Cla#DriverManufacturerTimeGapMph
1 21 united_states Paul Menard  Ford 29.998   180.012
2 12 united_states Ryan Blaney  Ford 30.020 0.022 179.880
3 9 united_states Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 30.042 0.044 179.748
4 11 united_states Denny Hamlin  Toyota 30.044 0.046 179.736
5 41 united_states Kurt Busch  Ford 30.076 0.078 179.545
6 14 united_states Clint Bowyer  Ford 30.085 0.087 179.491
7 10 united_states Aric Almirola  Ford 30.124 0.126 179.259
8 2 united_states Brad Keselowski  Ford 30.152 0.154 179.093
9 24 united_states William Byron  Chevrolet 30.158 0.160 179.057
10 20 united_states Erik Jones  Toyota 30.197 0.199 178.826
11 19 mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 30.627 0.629 176.315
12 78 united_states Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 30.918 0.920 174.656
13 4 united_states Kevin Harvick  Ford 30.208 0.210 178.761
14 22 united_states Joey Logano  Ford 30.213 0.215 178.731
15 1 united_states Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 30.254 0.256 178.489
16 3 united_states Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 30.329 0.331 178.047
17 88 united_states Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 30.379 0.381 177.754
18 18 united_states Kyle Busch  Toyota 30.391 0.393 177.684
19 31 united_states Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 30.459 0.461 177.288
20 42 united_states Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 30.470 0.472 177.223
21 47 united_states A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 30.498 0.500 177.061
22 48 united_states Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 30.510 0.512 176.991
23 37 united_states Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 30.597 0.599 176.488
24 17 united_states Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 30.617 0.619 176.373
25 6 united_states Trevor Bayne  Ford 30.585 0.587 176.557
26 43 united_states Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 30.616 0.618 176.378
27 38 united_states David Ragan  Ford 30.701 0.703 175.890
28 95 united_states Kasey Kahne  Chevrolet 30.712 0.714 175.827
29 13 united_states Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 30.775 0.777 175.467
30 34 united_states Michael McDowell  Ford 30.980 0.982 174.306
31 15 united_states Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 31.019 1.021 174.087
32 32 united_states Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 31.031 1.033 174.020
33 23 united_states Gray Gaulding  Toyota 31.052 1.054 173.902
34 99 united_states Kyle Weatherman  Chevrolet 31.627 1.629 170.740
35 00 united_states Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 31.688 1.690 170.412
36 72 united_states Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 31.916 1.918 169.194
37 51 united_states B.J. McLeod  Ford 31.934 1.936 169.099
38 07 united_states Reed Sorenson  Chevrolet 32.053 2.055 168.471
39 66 united_states Timmy Hill  Toyota 32.226 2.228 167.567
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