Kurt Busch claims Darlington pole with new track record

6:32 PM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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Darlington, SC (Sports Network) - One day after testing an IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch set a new track qualifying record at Darlington Raceway to win the pole for Saturday night's Southern 500.

Busch, who is in his first full season as driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, made a lap around Darlington's 1.366-mile "egg-shaped" oval at 181.918 mph, which surpassed the previous record of 181.254 mph, set by Kasey Kahne in 2011. He was the only driver to top the record.

Busch claimed his 16th career Sprint Cup Series pole but his first since June 2011 at Michigan. It's also his second pole at Darlington. He became the youngest pole winner here in September 2001 when he was 23 years old at the time.

"Wow, what an incredible lap," Busch said. "Just the way the team gave me the confidence when we first unloaded, they deserve all the credit. With the lineup of items that we had to go through today and the confidence they had in each of the changes they made, we gained speed.

"It just gave me the confidence to say, 'You know what, I'm going out there and I have a great qualifying draw. Let's just go out there and lay a lap and see if it sticks'."

Busch participated in a rookie orientation for this year's Indianapolis 500 on Thursday. He drove an IndyCar for Andretti Autosport, running at speeds of up to 218 mph. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion is open to the idea of competing in the Indy 500 and the 600-mile NASCAR race at Charlotte on the same day in the future but not this year. Indianapolis and Charlotte are scheduled for May 26.

Jimmie Johnson, who won last year's Southern 500 and gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th Cup victory, qualified second, while Kurt's younger brother, Kyle Busch, took the third spot. Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five.

Denny Hamlin qualified sixth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, who will make his 700th start in the series, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick.

Hamlin plans to run the whole 500-mile distance at Darlington after driving his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for just 25 laps in last Sunday's race at Talladega.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 16th. Defending series champion Brad Keselowski was 26th and Danica Patrick placed 40th. Patrick will use her backup car for the race after wrecking her primary car in practice earlier in the day.

All 43 drivers who qualified made the starting field.

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