SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Daniel Suarez couldn’t wait to see what strong practice sessions would yield during provisional qualifying at Kentucky Speedway.
His confidence culminated in a front row sweep for Stewart-Haas Racing. The field will not be finalized until cars pass inspection prior to Saturday night’s race.
Suarez turned a lap at 184.590 mph in his SHR Ford to nab the top starting spot. If it stands after inspection, it will be Suarez’s second pole in 91 career starts. He bumped teammate Aric Almirola to the outside front row in Friday qualifying.
“Pretty much the whole day has been pretty smooth,” Suarez said. “We’ve been very quick. We haven’t done a lot. My car was fast out of the box, so I feel very good about it.
“Hopefully we can keep up track position because track position will be huge tomorrow night.”
The 2016 Xfinity Series champion and first NASCAR champion from Mexico has made seven top-10 starts in 18 races this season, most recently fifth in last month’s road course race at Sonoma, California.
More important is earning his first career Cup victory, especially after three runs of 17th or worse — including 40th on Sunday at Daytona following an accident.
“We have had fast race cars but we cannot close the deal,” said Suarez. “I feel like we are getting better and better and bringing faster race cars to the track but we have to take advantage of those situations. Hopefully we run a smart race and make it happen.”
Three-time Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski completed a top-three sweep for Ford by qualifying third. Kurt Busch was fourth in a Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing while SHR driver Kevin Harvick made it four Fords in the top five.
“That was our best qualifying effort on a mile-and-a-half this year,” Keselowski said of his run. “That is something to be proud of. I didn’t quite have the speed to get the pole. I would have liked a later draw. I think there would have been some speed there.”
Two-time defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. was eighth and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch 10th as the only Toyotas in the top 10.
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