Wade Payne/Associated Press
Rookie Erik Jones captured the first pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career Friday by topping qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.
The 21-year-old beat out Kyle Larson for the No. 1 spot, and he will lead the field for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
Here is a look at the entire starting lineup and their qualifying times, courtesy of NASCAR.com:
1. Erik Jones: 14.981
2. Kyle Larson: 14.984
3. Kasey Kahne: 15.005
4. Chase Elliott: 15.031
5. Matt Kenseth: 15.042
6. Martin Truex Jr.: 15.046
7. Denny Hamlin: 15.062
8. Joey Logano: 15.108
9. Clint Bowyer: 15.117
10. Ryan Blaney: 15.126
11. Jamie McMurray: 15.225
12. Daniel Suarez: 15.244
13. Ryan Newman: 15.100
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 15.108
15. Chris Buescher: 15.120
16. Austin Dillon: 15.121
17. Brad Keselowski: 15.133
18. Kyle Busch: 15.143
19. David Ragan: 15.146
20. Trevor Bayne: 15.179
21. Jimmie Johnson: 15.181
22. Ty Dillon: 15.230
23. AJ Allmendinger: 15.337
24. Danica Patrick: 15.403
25. Kurt Busch: 15.194
26. Michael McDowell: 15.212
27. Paul Menard: 15.255
28. Aric Almirola: 15.255
29. Kevin Harvick: 15.259
30. JJ Yeley: 15.282
31. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 15.287
32. Cole Whitt: 15.329
33. Landon Cassill: 15.376
34. Matt DiBenedetto: 15.406
35. Corey LaJoie: 15.453
36. BJ McLeod: 15.503
37. Gray Gaulding: 15.531
38. Jeffrey Earnhardt: 15.554
39. Reed Sorenson: 15.623
40. Joey Gase: 15.777
Following his impressive showing, Jones expressed a great deal of satisfaction with his car and his chances heading toward Saturday’s race, as seen in this video from NASCAR on NBC:
NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC
A win for @Erik_Jones tomorrow night would put him in the playoffs.
He took a big leap toward that, getting the pole @BMSUpdates. #NASCAR https://t.co/wvxrwBhcDj
The top 16 drivers in the standings qualify for the playoffs, and Jones is 19th currently.
Since he trails 16th-place Matt Kenseth by 130 points, he will likely need a win in order to get himself inside the top 16.
Jones has been on a roll as of late, and he is coming off his best career Cup Series finish as he came in third last week at Michigan.
Several drivers in need of a win to either solidify their playoff spot or ascend to one qualified inside the top 10 as well, including Chase Elliott, Kenseth, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also needs a victory to end his final NASCAR Cup Series season with a championship opportunity, but as seen in this tweet from NASCAR’s official Twitter account, he struggled Friday:
.@DaleJr heads out for another run, but he’s unable to improve. P30 for the 8️⃣8️⃣. #CoorsLightPole https://t.co/1kiFg7ix11
Among those who also had a difficult time in qualifying was Kyle Busch, who failed to reach the final stage and settled for 18th.
The former Cup Series champion struggled with his handling during his second-round run:
NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC
🎵 Gonna get a little bit sideways. 🎵
@KyleBusch had a moment during round 2 of qualifying at @BMSUpdates! https://t.co/9r6B3GMGV1
Busch’s poor run was surprising considering his five wins at Bristol are tied for the most among active drivers with his brother, Kurt Busch.
Jimmie Johnson won at Bristol earlier this season, and he will also be forced to work his way through the field after qualifying 21st.
With just three races remaining before the playoffs start, there are few opportunities for drivers to punch their ticket into the Chase.
Bristol could be ripe for the picking due to its wild and unpredictable nature, and Jones has put himself in better position than anyone else to clinch a valuable playoff spot.