CONCORD, N.C. - Kyle Larson scored his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR All Star Race pole in Friday evening’s qualifying session for Saturday’s 33rd-annual running of the event.
Larson was the first driver to take to the track in the second round of qualifying for the all star event – which consisted of three timed laps plus a four-tire pit stop – and posted a lap of 143.839 mph that propelled him to the top of the grid.
Kyle Busch took the second qualifying spot, followed by Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch.
Larson’s front-row start will be his second in the All Star Race after racing his way into last year’s event with a victory in the Monster Energy Open over Chase Elliott.
This year, Larson was already locked in, thanks to his Cup victories earlier this year at California and last year at Michigan.
“It’s my first time doing this. It’s nice that we had a second round there to get a second tenth out of that. I picked up some time there,” said Larson. “This was all about not making mistakes. Everybody but us made mistakes in that last round. So, I am proud of everybody on this Target Chevy team, especially our pit crew. Our pit crew saved me in that first round to get us into this second round.
“And getting the pole is pretty sweet. It’s so much fun. I’ve been wanting to do that. It’s my fourth season in Cup now and I have wanted to do it every year.”
Ironically, Larson’s No. 42 car will start on the pole on the 25th anniversary of the first All Star Race run under the light in 1992 – dubbed “One Hot Night” – where Kyle Petty, driving no. 42, famously put Davey Allison into the wall at the finish line, sending the race winner to the hospital instead of victory lane.
“I will be 25 in a couple of months,” Larson said. “It would be cool to get the No. 42 in victory lane every week. I don’t think it completes the circle, but I just think it would be cool to get to victory lane here for a big race. We were close last year. Joey (Logano) was able to get by me late and yeah that was a heartbreaker, but hopefully we can get some revenge tomorrow night.
“May is a huge month for Chip Ganassi Racing in what goes on here and at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. So, we are starting with a good starting spot here. I hope we win the All-Star race tomorrow. We were close last year. And the atmosphere of the All-Star race, well, there’s just something about it. It’s a lot of fun and not a whole lot on the line other than a lot of money. So, I’m excited for tomorrow’s events.”
Larson was the fifth and final driver to advance after the opening round of qualifying, which was lead by Harvick who was the first driver out turned in a lap that the remaining 16 drivers couldn’t touch. Havrick’s teammate Kurt Busch was the only driver to even come close to Harvick’s time, but was still more than two-tenths of a second slower.
In the final round, Harvick’s team actually posted the quickest pit stop, but Harvick’s time on the track wasn’t quick enough to unseat Larson.
Kurt Busch actually beat Larson’s time on the track, but was penalized 10 seconds for two loose lug nuts and fell to the fifth qualifying spot, while Jimmie Johnson overshot his pit and was also penalized for his crew coming over the wall too soon.
Harvick was the last car on the clock, but fell three-tenths of a second short of topping Larson.
“We probably could have all done a little bit better, but all in all we didn’t make any huge mistakes and that was the goal,” said Harvick. “I feel like starting up front with the way that the tires are and the way that everything is will be a huge benefit because of the fact of your average position and all of the things that have to happen.
“We just didn’t want to start in the back, so lug nuts tight, not sliding through the pit box, don’t miss pit road and don’t overdrive the car.”
WDUN will have live MRN Radio coverage of Saturday night's Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race from Charlotte Motor Speedway beginning at 5:30 pm on 102.9 FM and AM 550.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Charlotte Motor Speedway – Concord, NC
Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race – May 19, 2017
Friday’s Qualifying Results
1. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 143.839 mph.
2. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 143.826 mph.
3. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 143.504 mph.
4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 133.123 mph.
5. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 132.703 mph.
6. (88) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, 143.136 mph.
7. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 143.011 mph.
8. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 142.176 mph.
9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 141.483 mph.
10. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 139.064 mph.
11. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 138.837 mph.
12. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 138.592 mph.
13. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 138.552 mph.
14. (78) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 137.745 mph.
15. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 136.563 mph.
16. (17) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 135.215 mph