Dillon on pole for the Sprint Cup race in Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas — Austin Dillon is on the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas two weeks after a heartbreaking finish knocked him out of the championship chase.
“We missed the Chase by just 2 feet. We want to prove that we can win a race by the end of this year,” Dillon said.
Dillon had a fast lap of 192.301 mph in the final round of qualifying Friday to earn his third career pole.
Joey Logano qualified second, and will be the highest starter Sunday in the AAA Texas 500 of the eight drivers still eligible for the season championship. His best lap in the final session was 192.269 mph.
The other Chase contenders to qualify in the top 10 were Kevin Harvick (third), Matt Kenseth (seventh), Carl Edwards (ninth) and Kurt Busch (10th). Denny Hamlin starts 17th.
Jimmie Johnson is the only driver locked into one of the four spots for title-deciding race at Homestead in two weeks. He has also won the last four fall races at 1 1/2-mile, high-banked Texas track, but qualified 19th on Friday.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch had the second-fastest time in the first round of qualifying while in a backup car after wrecking on the first lap of practice earlier in the day. But he will start 24th, the lowest of the Chase contenders, after never taking the lap for the second round of qualifying because of a water leak on pit road.
Adam Stevens, crew chief for the No. 18, said the issue was an aftereffect of the earlier wreck with a radiator hose not getting properly clamped down after an engine switch.
When Hamlin had a frantic ending to finish third at Talladega to end the second round of the playoffs, he tied Dillon for the eighth in season points. Hamlin had the tiebreaker to get the final spot in the round of eight.
Dillon said just being in the Chase this season helped the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team.
“I felt like together as a team, our team is very strong. We’ve just been missing here and there,” he said. “It is going to be good to have another year with this group of guys to see what we can do next year.”
Logano, who is currently fifth in points, qualified on the front row for the second consecutive weekend. It is also the second race in a row at Texas he will start second — he finished third in the April race.
“We are mad about second and that is when you know your team is in a good spot,” Logano said. “We are starting close to the front. That is just too many seconds. Second always stings and we were second here in the spring and here we are again and last week as well.”