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Kurt Busch earned the pole position for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 after posting the best time in the final round of qualifying Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama.
He’ll be joined on the front row by Clint Bowyer in the second race of the Round of 12 in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ championship playoffs. Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola will start from the second row in the 31st event of the season.
Busch picked up his fifth pole of the season and the 27th of his career.
Here’s a look at the complete top 10 for Sunday’s race (via NASCAR.com):
1. Kurt Busch (41)
2. Clint Bowyer (14)
3. Kevin Harvick (4)
4. Aric Almirola (10)
5. Chase Elliott (9)
6. Jimmie Johnson (48)
7. Alex Bowman (88)
8. William Byron (24)
9. Kyle Busch (18)
10. Denny Hamlin (11)
Talladega has treated Busch well so far in 2018. He started second in the track’s spring race, led five laps and finished second to Joey Logano in the GEICO 500.
The 2004 Cup Series champion will look to do one better Sunday after winning the pole. A victory would clinch a berth in the next round and eliminate any bubble drama next week at Kansas.
Somebody ate his Wheaties.
@KurtBusch nabs the #BuschPole! https://t.co/f6fWr0UJxy
Alex Bowman faces the toughest uphill climb of any driver still alive in the championship chase. He’s 34 points behind Ryan Blaney, who currently owns the final berth in the top eight. The other three drivers outside the cut line (Almirola, Bowyer and Kyle Larson) are no more than 12 points back.
The 25-year-old Arizona native said before the qualifying session the onus was on finding Victory Lane, per Dustin Long of NBC Sports.
“I don’t think stage points are going to help us make the transfer to the next round,” Bowman said. “I think a win is going to have to get it done.”
He’s struggled to tame Talladega throughout his career, though. He has just one top-10 finish in six starts with an average finish of 27.3.
All told, racing fans can always count on ‘Dega to provide some memorable moments. That should be especially true with so many drivers fighting for their playoff lives Sunday afternoon.
While the most pressure is on the drivers currently outside the top eight, it’s hard to envision anyone beating Busch if his car performs in race conditions anywhere near as well as it did in qualifying.