WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Chase Elliott isn’t racing differently on road courses. He’s just racing better.
And on Saturday, Elliott returned to Watkins Glen International with a vengeance, taking a giant step toward another victory at track that gave him his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win last year.
Elliott covered the 2.45-mile layout in 69.287 seconds (127.297 mph) to edge Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for the top starting spot in Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen, the 22nd event on the Cup calendar this year.
The Busch Pole Award was Elliott’s first on a road course, his third of the season and the seventh of his career. Most important, it reinforced Elliott’s status as a legitimate contender at the seven-turn track that features right-hand as well as left-hand corners.
“Our NAPA Chevy is fast, which is nice,” Elliott said. “It cooled off a lot (in late afternoon), and the track picked up a lot of pace from practice. So I just tried to find the limits of all that. There were a couple of places where I thought I could get more, but you always want to get more.
“Qualifying well here is important, because the strategy is important. Pitting these cars backwards (with fuel intakes on the right side instead of left), you need good pit selection and track position. This is a great result for our NAPA Chevy team.”
Elliott finished 13th in his first two races at the Glen. The last year, he started third and got his breakthrough victory.
“I don’t think I necessarily did anything different today than I did my first two trips,” Elliott said. “you hope you’ve gotten better as time goes on, but I can’t really say my approach was any different. I just think the combination of the cars getting better and us working together more is what helped us get the pole today.”
Byron earned his eighth front-row starting spot of the season. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (126.976 mph) and Martin Truex, Jr. (126.861 mph) qualified third and fourth to lead the Toyota contingent.
Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson will fifth through eighth, respectively. Aric Almirola claimed the ninth spot on the grid in the fastest Ford.
Early in the first of two qualifying rounds, Erik Jones blew a right front tire in turn 1. After his car was towed back to pit road, he recovered to qualify 14th.
“I just missed my mark,” Jones said of his entry into the first corner. “I just got in too hot and locked the right front up enough that it blew it out. That’s not what you want to do. I kind of thought we were done, and I didn’t realize that the rule was that if you don’t complete a lap you get to come back in and change tires.
“We put another tire on it, and the DeWalt Camry had good speed. I was just a little conservative on my lap, which I think you can probably understand why after the first time. Still a good starting spot. It has more speed than that, so it’s frustrating in that way, but still nice that we’re starting off better than dead last where we thought we were going to be.”
WDUN will carry live MRN Radio coverage of Sunday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Go Bowling At The Glen from Watkins Glen International beginning at 2 o’clock on 102.9 FM, AM 550 and streaming live on AccessWDUN.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Watkins Glen International – Watkins Glen, NY
Go Bowling at The Glen – August 3, 2019
Unofficial Qualifying Results
1. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 127.297 mph.
2. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 127.144 mph.
3. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 126.976 mph.
4. (19) Martin Truex, Jr, Toyota, 126.861 mph.
5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 126.779 mph.
6. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 126.726 mph.
7. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 126.300 mph.
8. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 126.124 mph.
9. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 125.928 mph.
10. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 125.926 mph.
11. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 125.589 mph.
12. (17) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 125.018 mph.
13. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 125.614 mph.
14. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 125.587 mph.
15. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 125.511 mph.
16. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 125.505 mph.
17. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 125.502 mph.
18. (41) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 125.448 mph.
19. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 125.391 mph.
20. (95) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 125.370 mph.
21. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 125.330 mph.
22. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 125.165 mph.
23. (8) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 124.603 mph.
24. (96) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 124.557 mph.
25. (6) Ryan Newman, Ford, 124.474 mph.
26. (36) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 124.460 mph.
27. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 124.343 mph.
28. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 124.112 mph.
29. (47) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 123.755 mph.
30. (43) Darrell Wallace, Jr., Chevrolet, 123.547 mph.
31. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 123.258 mph.
32. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 122.889 mph.
33. (32) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 122.725 mph.
34. (00) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 121.884 mph.
35. (51) Cody Ware(i), Chevrolet, 120.436 mph.
36. (52) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 120.383 mph.
37. (77) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 115.640 mph.