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Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell earned his second career NASCAR Cup Series pole position with a lap of 180.928 mph around the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday morning — just edging teammate Martin Truex Jr. by .081 seconds.
The all-JGR Toyota front row marks the first time the team has swept top qualifying honors at Talladega. The teammates will lead the field to green in Sunday‘s GEICO 500 (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“There is not much to say about the lap, just a lot to say about Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), the engine package they brought here, and the cars assembled at JGR,‘‘ said Bell, whose best Talladega finish in four starts is fifth in last fall‘s race. “This No. 20 group did a really good job. They gave me the best car in the field today, so hopefully we can keep it going and keep it up front tomorrow.”
Asked if he thought the wind gusts at the track ultimately made a difference in his pole-winning speed, the 27-year-old smiled and said, “it didn‘t hurt.‘‘
“Even from the first round to the second round, I could tell my RPMs picked up really big going down the back straightaway, then they were pretty flat going down the front straightaway, so I don‘t know if it was an advantage to me, but definitely didn‘t hurt,‘‘ said Bell, whose previous pole position came in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Daniel Hemric — held the top qualifying position until the final two cars in the second round (Truex and Bell) and will start third in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Daniel Suárez was fourth fastest in the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson was fifth fastest in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports. None of these top-five qualifiers has ever won a NASCAR Cup Series race at the track.
Toyota drivers Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin, Chevrolet’s William Byron, Toyota‘s Bubba Wallace and Chevrolet‘s Tyler Reddick rounded out the top 10 for Sunday‘s grid.
Of note, the top qualifying Ford driver was Joey Logano, who will roll off 13th in the No. 22 Team Penske Mustang on Sunday. Defending race winner Brad Keselowski will start his No. 6 RFK Racing Ford from 15th position on the grid. Keselowski is the winningest driver in the field with six Talladega victories.
Landon Cassill’s No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet did not participate in Saturday’s qualifying sessions after failing Friday’s opening-day technical inspection three times. Cassill will start last in the 39-car field and will have to serve a penalty with a pass through pit road at his first opportunity after the start.
Sunday’s 500-miler is the 10th race of the Cup Series season and the first for the Next Gen car at Talladega. Both the Cup Series and Xfinity Series races this weekend will be held without practice beforehand.
Contributing: Staff reports