In his sophomore season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series -- and his first with veteran crew chief Chad Knaus -- William Byron continues to make history.
On Saturday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, Byron covered the 1.366-mile distance at the egg-shaped track in 28.510 seconds (172.487 mph), winning the pole position for Sunday's Bojangles' Southern (NYSE:SO) 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Not only did Byron claim his first Busch Pole Award at Darlington and his fourth of the season, he also became part of an elite triumvirate. Before his pole-winning run on Saturday, only Fireball Roberts in 1962 and Bill Elliott in 1985 had ever won poles for the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) 600 and the Southern 500 in the same season.
With his fourth career pole, Byron is now a member of that exclusive club.
Byron acknowledged that he and Knaus have concentrated on qualifying at the marquee races, but with Darlington being an impound event, there's a necessary compromise between race and qualifying setups.
"Our race setup (at Darlington) was good in qualifying trim," Byron said. "It just happened to work out that way that we focused on qualifying, and I'm sure Chad puts his extra little bit into, too, and I kind of put my extra couple cents into it to make sure I hit everything right.
"I felt good driving down here this morning. Only having to make one lap today is pretty easy, so I said, ‘Go on out there and try to not screw up and make a good lap."
Driving a throwback City Chevrolet paint scheme on his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro -- a nod to the movie "Days of Thunder" -- Byron did exactly that, edging Ford driver and defending race winner Brad Keselowski (172.088 mph) for the top starting spot by .066 seconds.
The Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Kyle Larson (171.842 mph) and Kurt Busch (171.764 mph) earned the third and fourth starting positions for Sunday's race. A pair of drivers fighting for the final playoff positions -- Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson -- will start fifth and sixth respectively.
Two-time Darlington winner Denny Hamlin qualified ninth in the fastest Toyota.
Ryan Newman, 15th in the standings, will start 24th as he tries to hold on to his provisional playoff spot.
"I'm not happy with it because we're not P1, but I felt like I got everything I could as far as driving out of it," Newman said. "It's kind of a crapshoot. We're wide open from Turn 4 to Turn 3, and however you get through 3 and 4 coming to your green, and then your timed lap is where it's all at.
"It's my favorite race track. I'm looking forward to the race. I feel like we've got a car that drives fairly good. I just don't know that we have the speed that it takes to be as good as we need to be."
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying -- 70th Annual Bojangles' Southern 500
Darlington, South Carolina
Saturday, August 31, 2019
1. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 172.487 mph.
2. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 172.088 mph.
3. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 171.842 mph.
4. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 171.764 mph.
5. (41) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 171.321 mph.
6. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 171.202 mph.
7. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 171.011 mph.
8. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 170.952 mph.
9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 170.827 mph.
10. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 170.744 mph.
11. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 170.679 mph.
12. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 170.578 mph.
13. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 170.566 mph.
14. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 170.507 mph.
15. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 170.466 mph.
16. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 170.425 mph.
17. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 170.324 mph.
18. (8) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 170.206 mph.
19. (95) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 170.130 mph.
20. (47) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 170.100 mph.
21. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 169.977 mph.
22. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 169.830 mph.
23. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 169.473 mph.
24. (6) Ryan Newman, Ford, 169.461 mph.
25. (00) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 169.065 mph.
26. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 169.007 mph.
27. (32) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 168.972 mph.
28. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 168.625 mph.
29. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 168.567 mph.
30. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 168.244 mph.
31. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 168.186 mph.
32. (36) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 167.997 mph.
33. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 167.351 mph.
34. (77) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 165.220 mph.
35. (52) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 165.042 mph.
36. (51) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 163.538 mph.
37. (27) Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, 162.512 mph.
38. (54) Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 160.874 mph.
39. (66) Joey Gase(i), Toyota, 159.207 mph.
--By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media
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