LAS VEGAS -- Running a track-record lap on Friday that he described as "insanely fast," Las Vegas native Kurt Busch led qualifying for Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
The Coors Light Pole Award was Busch's second straight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, following last week's top qualifying effort at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch remains the only driver to win a pole this year with the 2016 lower-downforce competition package.
"Two poles in a row -- this is great," said Busch, who scored his 21st career pole and his second at the 1.5-mile speedway, the first coming in 2010. "This is how you work through an offseason and show up to qualify. Now we just need to find that speed on the long run."
Busch ran 196.238 mph (27.505 seconds) in the money round to edge Joey Logano (195.851 mph) for the top starting spot. Matt Kenseth (195.780 mph) qualified third, followed by Brad Keselowski (195.666 mph) and Austin Dillon (195.624 mph).
But the path to the pole wasn't totally smooth for the 2004 series champion. Busch's No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet tightened up during the second round, forcing Busch to make a second run to crack the top 12 and advance to the final round.
"I'm really proud of the team to help me get to that third round," Busch said. "I was overdriving the car, and I needed to settle in, and (crew chief) Tony Gibson made a great adjustment in that last round. I was hoping to put on a show for the home crowd, get the pole, but now we've got to go to work (in Saturday's practice). I hope we can get the car dialed in for long-run speed for Sunday."
Despite the lower downforce configuration, the cars were exceedingly fast.
In the first round of knockout qualifying, Busch paced the 39-car field with a track-record-obliterating lap at 196.378 mph (27.498 seconds). Before the round was over, seven drivers had bettered Jeff Gordon's 2015 mark of 194.679 mph (27.738 seconds).
At the end of three rounds, 14 drivers had improved on Gordon's mark, with Busch's first-round lap established as the new track record.
Defending race winner Kevin Harvick, however, wasn't among the fastest performers in Round 1. In fact, Harvick needed three attempts before he could bump his way into the top 24 in the final minute and advance to the second round.
Ultimately, Harvick claimed the sixth starting spot, a remarkable achievement for a driver who had five laps on his tires by the time he finished qualifying.
Logano's effort in time trials represented a dramatic improvement over his 26th-place qualifying run at Atlanta.
"I think we learned from our mistakes," Logano said. "It's not like we hit on something huge (in Friday's practice). We found some things... you find some direction on things that are better than others and what this package wants compared to last year's.
"You get some of that stuff, but there is no finding three tenths of a second. It's hard to hit on something like that. In general, we got a better direction of what we need to do to our car. It showed today with both Team Penske cars up there in qualifying."
Qualifying was not without its share of casualties. Carl Edwards cut his right rear tire, smacked the outside wall and was forced to a backup car for Sunday's race. Jamie McMurray fought a tight handling condition in the first round and brushed the wall on his second attempt, qualifying 29th.
Note: Only one driver has won a Sprint Cup race from the pole at LVMS. That was Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch's brother, in 2009.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying - Kobalt 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Friday, March 04, 2016
1. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 196.328 mph.
2. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 195.851 mph.
3. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 195.780 mph.
4. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 195.666 mph.
5. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 195.624 mph.
6. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 195.454 mph.
7. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 195.291 mph.
8. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 195.284 mph.
9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 195.080 mph.
10. (78) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 194.974 mph.
11. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 193.986 mph.
12. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 193.126 mph.
13. (24) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 194.665 mph.
14. (21) Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 194.658 mph.
15. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 194.356 mph.
16. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 194.301 mph.
17. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 193.889 mph.
18. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 193.625 mph.
19. (14) Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 193.597 mph.
20. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 193.444 mph.
21. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 193.334 mph.
22. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 192.933 mph.
23. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 192.795 mph.
24. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 195.101 mph.
25. (34) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 193.050 mph.
26. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 192.933 mph.
27. (38) Landon Cassill, Ford, 192.754 mph.
28. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 192.726 mph.
29. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 192.342 mph.
30. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 192.020 mph.
31. (23) David Ragan, Toyota, 191.870 mph.
32. (44) Brian Scott #, Ford, 191.144 mph.
33. (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 190.873 mph.
34. (83) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 190.154 mph.
35. (15) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 189.036 mph.
36. (98) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 188.422 mph.
37. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 188.409 mph.
38. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Ford, 187.846 mph.
39. (30) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 185.810 mph.