Bluegreen Vacations 500k Qualification Report

Dan Beaver

Qualification for the Bluegreen Vacations 500k at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway ended the same way as practice, with all playoff contenders knotted together.

Posting a lap of 140.116 mph, Kyle Busch will lead the field to green on Sunday with the driver he believes to be his principle rival, Joey Logano on the outside of the front row.

Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. line up on Row 2 with Chevrolet drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott making up row three.

Kevin Harvick qualified seventh with Ryan Blaney rounding out the top 10 to give the playoff drivers a sweep of the first five rows.

Busch has qualified among the top 10 in 12 of his last 13 races and nearly all of those have resulted in top-10 finishes. His last pole on this track came in March, 2016 with a fourth-place finish following. Since the track was reconfigured and flipped at the beginning of last year, his qualification efforts have been solid, but not perfect with a best of fourth. That hasn’t mattered, however, because he has two wins and a second-place finish in his last three starts.

If Logano is the driver he needs to stay ahead of to earn enough points to insure a position in the Championship 4, statistics would indicate that will be an easy feat. Like Busch, Logano has been stellar in qualification with 10 top-10 starts in his last 12 attempts. He won the pole in March, 2017 – but since that time, he has only one top-10 finish and that was a hard-fought 10th this spring. Of course, stats don’t win races and Logano is aware of what he needs to do to advance.

Hamlin needs to make up 20 or 22 points on Busch and Logano, which is not going to be easy. He has a four-race streak of top-10 starts at ISM to his credit with a .500 record of top-fives following. He started third this spring and finished fifth, but that will not be enough unless either Busch or Logano struggle this week.

Truex is running the Bluegreen Vacations 500k for momentum. Relaxed and enthusiastic, he will roll off the grid fourth and is simply looking to serve notice that he is the driver everyone has to beat for the championship. If he gambles and loses, no one will care; if he wins, the field will have to worry about that for the next seven days. Since the beginning of 2017 Truex’s qualification efforts have been a major indication of how he will finish. When he qualifies inside the top 10, he finishes there; when he’s outside that mark to start, the same is true at the end.

Larson is in the same general points’ situation as Hamlin and Blaney; he can advance without a win, but it will take a mistake by the drivers ahead of him to allow that to happen. Larson entered this spring’s TicketGuardian 500k with a seven-race streak of top-10 starts but could only muster a 31st in time trials; he finished sixth.

Elliott is in a must-win situation. He recorded his seventh straight top-10 start with a lap of 139.179 mph that places him sixth on the grid. That means he has started on one of the first five rows in all but one race. He has only three top-10 finishes after doing so, however.

Kurt Busch in eighth and Erik Jones in 10th were the only two non-playoff drivers to qualify in the top 10.

Bluegreen Vacations 500k Practice Report

Top-10 starters, last two races at this track:




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