Carl Edwards had a fast Friday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led the first practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday afternoon, with a lap of 136.894 miles per hour. He followed that up later Friday snatching the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 with a lap of 137.980 mph and for the second time this year will lead the field from the top spot at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“The car was super-fast in practice,” Edwards said. “We got a great start to the Chase and we’ve just keeping that rolling. We knew qualifying here’d be important, so we worked on that a lot today. The guys have been working really hard. The cars are good. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) helped me a lot. I’m starting to really enjoy coming to New Hampshire.”
Ten of the 12 drivers in the third and final five minute round of qualifying were drivers in the Chase led by Edwards who also won the pole here in July. It was the third pole of 2015 for Edwards and his 16th pole in 401 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts.
“It is tough and this place is simple, so it’s pretty straightforward,” Edwards said. “But one little mistake here or there can cost you a lot. I really had to step it up. I almost didn’t make the third round and had to actually kind of get myself going there that last round like, ‘Man, you’ve got to do this and it’s a tough place to decide where to be aggressive, but our car was easy to drive and that’s what made it – put us up front.”
Besides Edwards, perhaps none of the Chase drivers were as happy as Kevin Harvick. Harvick comes into New Hampshire in a deep hole after crashing out early in the first race of the Chase at Chicago last week. He had the pole for nearly half the final five minutes until Edwards came out. Harvick will start second Sunday.
“The first step of the process of the weekend is over,” Harvick said. “Just like any other weekend and you go about what you need to do tomorrow morning to be prepared for the race and today went well. I felt like I probably left those few hundredths of a second just not being aggressive enough on the exit of Turn 2 as good as the car was off of Turn 4. Small crumbs it’s just hard to balance that here because if you push the car too much you wind up giving up two or three tenths instead of two or three hundredths. It is definitely a fine balance. Definitely could have been a little more aggressive in Turn 2.”
Behind Harvick, Kurt Busch who led the second qualifying session will start third, Brad Keselowski will start fourth and Jimmie Johnson, who led the first session, will start fifth.
“These guys built me a brand new racecar with some new ideas in it and it’s been fast the whole time,” Johnson said. “For us to qualify in the top five and be that close to the pole I’m really excited. It’s going to be a good race.”
Clint Bowyer was the only Chase contender who failed to advance past the first round in the three-round qualifying session. With a 25 point penalty looming from NASCAR after a failed inspection in qualifying, Bowyer is currently 16th, and last in the points. He will line up 26th Sunday.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, also Chase contenders, missed the final round and will roll off the grid 13th and 17th, respectively. Other Chase Contenders missing the final round: Paul Menard will start 20th, Martin Truex Jr. 21st and Jamie McMurray 23rd.
“Just didn’t have the speed we needed here today in qualifying trim,” an obviously disappointed Busch said. “If I tried to run too hard into the corner, I got way loose. We’ve got two practice sessions to work on this No. 18 Pedigree Camry tomorrow, so I feel confident we can make the necessary adjustments to be in good shape for Sunday.”
Kyle Larson will start 6th, Denny Hamlin 7th, followed by Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon rounding out the top 10. Jeffrey Earnhardt will make his second career Sprint Cup start rolling off 42nd. Travis Kvapil failed to qualify for the race. The full qualifying results can be found here. The full lineup for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway can be found here. Live coverage of the race will be a 2:00 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.