Kansas City, Kan. Kurt Busch had never run all that well in Kansas, and a spinout during practice Friday certainly didn’t make it look as if he was about to turn that around.
Less than 24 hours and a few tweaks later, Busch captured the pole for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway and reversed a decade of tough luck at the 1.5-mile track.
Busch, who had never started higher than seventh in 10 career starts in Kansas and has never finished in the top five, topped the leaderboard at 174.752 mph in his No. 22 Dodge on Saturday.
Busch snapped out of an extended funk with a fourth-place finish last week in Charlotte. He had to have front end damage repaired following Friday’s spin, and that and other changes helped produce his first pole since Michigan last June and the 13th of his career.
“I have to thank my guys for standing behind me, not just through (Friday) but through some of the tough times we’ve been through as of late,” Busch said. “It’s an amazing world, the world of motorsports. One day you’re down, the next day you’re up.”
Juan Pablo Montoya will start second in today’s race, followed by Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers.
Joey Logano qualified fifth, giving Toyota three cars in the top five.
“A lot better than we expected,” Kyle Busch said. “The guys did a good job with it and gave me a good piece to run a good lap. That’s all we can ask for. We’ve been having sort of a struggle this weekend so far and trying to make something out of nothing here.”
Jamie McMurray, who grew up in nearby Joplin, Mo., and visited the tornado-ravaged town Thursday, will start sixth.
Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards, also a Missouri native, will start seventh — the highest of any of the Fords in the field.
“I’m not going to tell you exactly what I did wrong, but I know it was something,” Edwards said. “I think we are going to have a really good shot at this race and that would mean a lot to me.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s momentum after a gut-wrenching but promising second-place finish at Charlotte stalled with a qualifying run of 28th. Jimmie Johnson, who beat Edwards to win here in 2008, will start 31st — by far his worst position in Kansas.
Today’s race will mark the midway point of the Sprint Cup’s regular season, and three drivers looking to move up in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings are hoping to become Kansas’ first three-time winner.
Tony Stewart (13th), Greg Biffle (14th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd) all have a pair of wins here — but none of them will start in the top 10.
Gordon, who took Kansas’s first two races in 2001-02, has seven top-five finishes at the track and four in a row.
Biffle took first in 2007, won again last fall in a Chase event and has the best driver rating of any driver at Kansas, ahead of Johnson. Stewart won Kansas in 2006 and 2009.
Of course, the way this season has gone almost anyone has a realistic shot at a win. Just five of the 12 winners in the Cup series so far this season have started from 20th or better.
This is the first summer Sprint Cup race on the schedule for Kansas, which added an event for 2011. Drivers expect the track to be hot and slick for today’s race, which will start at noon local time.
The track will host its traditional fall race on October 9.
“There’s a bunch of differences with being out here in June and how warm it is. But I always look at the law of averages. If you’ve struggled somewhere for a long time, then maybe it’s — you’re due,” Busch said.