Saturday December 9th, 2023 10:58AM

William Byron wins pole for NASCAR Cup title race

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service

AVONDALE, Ariz. - Championship 4 driver William Byron won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway, keeping alive the possibility of preserving a remarkable streak.

In each of the three title races at the one-mile track in the Sonoran Desert, the pole winner has gone on to win the race and the championship — Chase Elliott in 2020, Kyle Larson in 2021, and Joey Logano last year.

In the final round of Saturday’s time trials, Byron navigated the irregular-shaped track in 27.150 seconds (132.597 mph) to claim the top starting spot by 0.018 seconds over Martin Truex, Jr. (132.509) mph, who was eliminated from the Playoffs last Sunday at Martinsville.

Making his final qualifying run as a full-time Cup Series driver, Kevin Harvick earned the third starting spot with a lap at 132.421 mph. Championship 4 contender Larson, Byron’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth at 132.397 mph.

“My team is really going to like this,” said Byron, who won his fourth Busch Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Phoenix and the 12th of his career — and earned the right to select advantageous pit stall No. 1.

“It’s going to be fun. All my family and friends are here, all my friends from high school. It’s going to be fun to hang out with them over tonight and just enjoy. This is a great opportunity. I want to be here every year. It’s really fun to be a part of, and we need to take advantage of it.”

Championship 4 drivers Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney, who were the fastest two title contenders in Friday’s practice, failed to make the final round of qualifying and will start 13th and 15th, respectively.

“I needed about another tenth-and-a-half (of a second) — I don’t know,” said Blaney, who earned his spot in the final four with a victory last Sunday at Martinsville. “I mean, the car didn’t feel bad, just not as much speed as everyone else. I think our race car is good for (Sunday). So, we’ll see what happens.”

Larson can win a second championship on Sunday. For the other three Playoff drivers, a title would be the first. Larson was reluctant to put too much stock in qualifying speed.

“I think we all saw the practice sheets yesterday,” Larson said. “I think the 12 (Blaney) and the 20 (Bell) looked a step better than especially me and even William a little bit. Was honestly surprised that they didn’t make the final round there.

“So, no, I’m not counting out Blaney or Bell at all. It’s a long race, so they’ll overcome wherever they start. I’m sure they’ll drive through the field. The final four guys, most everybody respects or shows a lot of respect to on the racetrack and gives a lot of space.

“I think they’ll find their way to the front pretty quickly.”

Bubba Wallace claimed the fifth spot on the grid, followed by Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick, who spun and slapped the turn 4 wall during his run in the final round.

Dawsonville, Georgia’s Chase Elliott will roll off from the 20th starting spot on Sunday.

Notes: Harvick ran the fastest lap of the day in the first round (27.067 seconds, 133.003 mph)… Cole Custer qualified 31st in relief of Brad Keselowski, who flew home to Charlotte to be with wife Paige, who went into labor with the couple’s third child. Keselowski is expected to return for Sunday’s race.

NASCAR Cup Series
Phoenix Raceway – Avondale, AZ
Championship Race – November 4, 2023

Saturday’s Qualifying Results

1. (24) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 132.597 mph.
2. (19) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, 132.509 mph.
3. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 132.421 mph.
4. (5) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 132.397 mph.
5. (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 132.261 mph.
6. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 132.139 mph.
7. (43) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 131.540 mph.
8. (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 131.454 mph.
9. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 131.109 mph.
10. (45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 128.769 mph.
11. (54) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
12. (41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 0.000 mph.
13. (20) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 0.000 mph.
14. (38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 0.000 mph.
15. (12) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 0.000 mph.
16. (99) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
17. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 0.000 mph.
18. (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
19. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 0.000 mph.
20. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
21. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
22. (42) Carson Hocevar(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
23. (48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
24. (47) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
25. (21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 0.000 mph.
26. (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 0.000 mph.
27. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 0.000 mph.
28. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 0.000 mph.
29. (7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
30. (51) Ryan Newman(i), Ford, 0.000 mph.
31. (6) Cole Custer(i), Ford, 0.000 mph.
32. (16) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
33. (77) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
34. (15) J.J. Yeley(i), Ford, 0.000 mph.
35. (31) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
36. (78) B.J. McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

WDUN will carry live MRN Radio coverage of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at from Phoenix Raceway at 2 pm on 102.9 FM and streaming live on AccessWDUN.

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