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Friday September 30th, 2022 8:50AM

Aric Almirola nips Ryan Blaney for Bristol Cup pole

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service

BRISTOL, Tenn.— A Ford driver hadn’t won a pole position at Bristol Motor Speedway in more than 10 years, but that changed radically on Friday afternoon when Aric Almirola snagged the top starting position for Saturday’s night’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

In the final round of time trials, Almirola covered the .533-mile distance in 14.946 seconds (128.382 mph) to become the first Ford NASCAR Cup Series pole winner at Thunder Valley since Greg Biffle claimed the top starting spot in March of 2012.

“We had a really good (car) in practice,” Almirola said. “We ran, I think, 55 laps straight, and I felt really good about it. We swapped over to (qualifying trim), and it still had a lot of speed.

“I’m really proud of the effort on this team. We were bummed out we didn’t make the Playoffs, but we’re showing what we’re capable of. We can race with these guys. Yeah, we’re going to try and do it for 500 laps (Saturday) night.”

In fact, Ford drivers locked out the front row for the cutoff race for the Round of 16 in the Cup Playoffs, with Chase Briscoe running second to Almirola with a lap in 14.968 seconds (128.193 mph). Alex Bowman (128.176 mph) qualified third in the tightly bunched field, with Denny Hamlin (127.911 mph) taking the fourth starting position.

Playoff drivers will occupy positions two through nine on the grid. Brad Keselowski in the 10th position joined Almirola as the only other non-Playoff driver to qualify for the final round, as six Ford drivers made the final 10.

Kevin Harvick, who realistically is in a must-win position after suffering calamities in the first two Playoff races, will start seventh.

Among Playoff drivers who failed to qualify for the final round, Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez have the most ground to make up. Dillon, three points below the cut line, qualified 28th, one position better than Suarez, who is six points ahead of Kyle Busch in 13th.

An eight-time winner at Bristol, Busch spun in practice and qualified 21st.

WDUN will carry live PRN Radio coverage of Saturday night's NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 6:30 pm on 102.9 FM, AM 550 and streaming live on AccessWDUN.

NASCAR Cup Series
Bristol Motor Speedway – Bristol, TN
Bass Pro Shops Night Race – September 16, 2022

Friday’s Qualifying Results

Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1. 10 Aric Almirola Ford BlueOval City Ford 14.946 128.382
2. 14 Chase Briscoe (P) Magical Vacation Planner Ford 14.968 128.193
3. 48 Alex Bowman (P) Ally Chevrolet 14.970 128.176
4. 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Ground Toyota 14.972 128.159
5. 5 Kyle Larson (P) HendrickCars.com Chevrolet 15.001 127.911
6. 12 Ryan Blaney (P) Menards/Pennzoil Ford 15.008 127.852
7. 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Busch Light Ford 15.030 127.665
8. 20 Christopher Bell (P) Yahoo! Toyota 15.057 127.436
9. 2 Austin Cindric # (P) Freightliner Ford 15.078 127.258
10. 6 Brad Keselowski Kohler Generators Ford 15.083 127.216
11. 41 Cole Custer Autodesk/HaasTooling.com Ford 15.047 127.520
12. 1 Ross Chastain (P) Worldwide Express Chevrolet 15.051 127.487
13. 16 A.J. Allmendinger(i) Action Industries Chevrolet 15.092 127.140
14. 45 Bubba Wallace (P) MoneyLion Toyota 15.096 127.107
15. 22 Joey Logano (P) Shell Pennzoil Ford 15.125 126.863
16. 24 William Byron (P) Acronis Chevrolet 15.153 126.628
17. 8 Tyler Reddick (P) Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet 15.159 126.578
18. 34 Michael McDowell Love’s Travel Stops Ford 15.176 126.436
19. 31 Justin Haley LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet 15.182 126.387
20. 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford 15.184 126.370
21. 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M’s Toyota 15.188 126.337
22. 19 Martin Truex, Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota 15.220 126.071
23. 9 Chase Elliott (P) Hooters Chevrolet 15.248 125.839
24. 43 Erik Jones U.S. Air Force Chevrolet 15.265 125.699
25. 23 Ty Gibbs(i) Monster Energy Toyota 15.266 125.691
26. 47 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Kroger/Thomas’ Chevrolet 15.379 124.768
27. 21 Harrison Burton # Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford 15.382 124.743
28. 3 Austin Dillon (P) Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road 15.388 124.695
29. 99 Daniel Suarez (P) Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevrolet 15.390 124.678
30. 38 Todd Gilliland # Long John Silver’s Ford 15.450 124.194
31. 7 Corey LaJoie Schluter Systems Chevrolet 15.451 124.186
32. 51 Cody Ware Nurtec ODT Ford 15.460 124.114
33. 78 B.J. McLeod(i) Down N Dirty Ford 15.501 123.786
34. 42 Ty Dillon EG3 Technologies Chevrolet 15.604 122.968
35. 77 Landon Cassill(i) Zeigler Auto/LoJack Chevrolet 15.684 122.341
36. 15 J.J. Yeley(i) World Supercross Championship Ford 15.722 122.046

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (P) Playoff driver

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