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Friday’s qualifying run at Kansas Speedway was a triumph for Joey Logano, who will start the final race in the NASCAR playoffs round of 12 from the pole position.
Logano topped Kevin Harvick during qualifying with a lap speed of 191.646 mph during the final round. This marks Logano’s first pole win of the season. He’s also chasing his second victory of 2018 after finishing in the top five at Dover and Talladega the previous two weeks.
Even though Aric Almirola leads the standings and has already clinched a spot in the next round of the playoffs, he didn’t rest on his laurels during qualifying. The 34-year-old will start at the front of the second row after posting the third-best lap time Friday.
Here is the full starting grid for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, via NASCAR.com:
Row 1: Joey Logano (pole), Kevin Harvick
Row 2: Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney
Row 3: Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones
Row 4: Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez
Row 5: Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman
Row 6: Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 7: Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer
Row 8: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman
Row 9: William Byron, Paul Menard
Row 10: Trevor Bayne, Jamie McMurray
Row 11: Chris Buescher, Jimmie Johnson
Row 12: Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell
Row 13: A.J. Allmendinger, Regan Smith
Row 14: Kyle Larson, David Ragan
Row 15: Bubba Wallace, Ty Dillon
Row 16: Matt DiBenedetto, Ross Chastain
Row 17: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Corey LaJoie
Row 18: Landon Cassill, J.J. Yeley
Row 19: Kyle Weatherman, B.J. McLeod
Row 20: Reed Sorensen, Timmy Hill
Following his pole victory, Logano explained what it takes to succeed on the track in Kansas City.
“If you can have a car that runs up by the wall or in the middle you can excel and run up front,” Logano told NBC Sports (h/t RacinBoys.com’s Lee Spencer).
Hell yeah, boys.
@joeylogano and #TeamJL snag the #BuschPole at @kansasspeedway! https://t.co/Kq7pj7Cjsh
Prior to a disappointing 21st-place finish at this race last year, Logano was on a streak of four straight years finishing in the top four. He also won on this track in 2014 and 2015, so he’s in prime position to keep dominating this weekend.
As things stand right now, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman are on the outside of the top eight in the playoff standings.
Martin Truex Jr. holds an 18-point edge over Keselowski for the No. 8 spot before Sunday’s elimination race.
Truex won at Kansas Speedway last year en route to winning the NASCAR championship. He’s struggled coming into this race, finishing outside the top 10 in six of the past nine events.
Larson put himself in a bad spot to keep his playoff hopes alive by finishing 27th in qualifying. The No. 42 car has had a rough time this week in Kansas. He was forced to use a backup car after crashing during practice earlier in the day.
“I’m good, just mad at myself,” Larson said after his crash, via NASCAR.com. “Got loose and had it corrected, then it’s like the second time I corrected, I don’t know if I got on the splitter or what, but then it didn’t turn and went straight. Just hate it that we wrecked a primary car there. I’m sure our backup car will be fine. We’re always pretty good here at Kansas, so we should be fine. I’ve been in a backup car here before and been really fast. We’ll just dig deep and work hard and see what we can do on Sunday.”
Larson’s issues at this track have been a career-long problem, with his best finish being 29th place in 2015. He needs to make up 36 points to catch Truex in order to keep his championship hopes alive.
All of the playoff drama will be settled when the green flag drops in Kansas City on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. Almirola and Chase Elliott, who is starting in 13th position, are the only drivers ensured of a spot in the round of eight.
That leaves 10 drivers competing for the final six playoff slots. Everyone has to be on point to avoid seeing their dreams of winning a title fly out the window.