BRISTOL, Tenn. – Chase Elliott won the Food City 500 pole Friday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway, but Ryan Blaney earned a spot in the history book.
Blaney, who had the fastest car most of the afternoon, set the track record in the second round of the qualifying session with a 14.528-second run.
Elliott, 23, then claimed his first pole of the season with a time of 14.568 seconds at 131.713 during the third and final round in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports NAPA Camaro.
“It’s awesome,” Elliott said. “I’ve really been wanting a pole outside of Daytona and Talladega for a long time now. So, I feel like I was finally able to contribute from my end a little bit more and get a pole that my team certainly deserves.”
Second-year driver William Byron took the No. 2 spot with a lap of 14.606 at 131.371. It’s the third time this season that Byron has earned a front row position.
“To be one-two for Hendrick Motorsports two weeks in a row … I hate to be on the second end of it, but it’s still fun to start on the front row,” said Byron, who finished 23rd in Cup points last season. “I feel like we’re making huge strides in the speed of our cars and it just makes things easier at the track.”
Byron credited his new crew chief Chad Knaus, who led Jimmie Johnson to seven Cup Series championship, for his progress.
“This is fun so hopefully we can keep it going on Sunday,” Byron said.
Blaney, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five qualifiers.
According to Blaney, he hurt himself in the third round.
“I got greedy going into [Turn] three and missed it,” he said. “The first lap was our best. I ran one lap in every round, but messed up so bad in the last round that I had to run more and it just wasn’t as good.”
Following an extremely fast opening session, round two devolved into an extended game of cat and mouse to the frustration of the cozy collection of fans.
Kyle Larson, who will start from the No. 16 spot on Sunday, finally ended the impasse when he went on the track with just under five minutes left in the session.
One of the big questions entering the day was how cars would respond to the Bristol TrackBite traction compound applied to the bottom of the track.
“Overall I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Jones said. “We practiced in a very odd line all day so it was good to have it finally come in and get a little normality back to what we do. We knew how to adjust, so we did a good job. I figured especially after the start of qualifying that we were going to be running down there.”
It was not a good day for the Busch brothers. Kyle Busch, who has a total of 21 BMS victories across the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series, qualified 17th while Kurt Busch was 27th.
Elliott hopes to hog the spotlight in Sunday’s race.
“We’ve got a fast NAPA Chevy,” Elliott said. “I appreciate everybody’s efforts at Hendrick Motorsport. They’ve been working really hard to try to get better and this is a big deal.
“We have some work to do, I think, for Sunday. We’ll go to work tomorrow and try to get it driving good for 500 laps. That’s a long time.”