AVONDALE, Ariz.: Kyle Larson went out 37th in the qualifying order and knocked Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott off the top spot to win the pole Saturday for the NASCAR Cup Series championship race.
Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet failed inspection twice, but he easily recovered and went 137.847 mph Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. Elliott was second in the No. 9 Chevy.
Joe Gibbs Racing championship drivers Denny Hamlin was sixth and Martin Truex Jr. 12th.
It’s a Hendrick Motorsports vs. JGR battle in the desert Sunday with the championship at stake.
Larson, Hamlin and Truex all had team members ejected for twice failing inspection.
The starting spot might not matter much at Phoenix. Elliotts car failed pre-race inspection before last season’s championship race and the penalty cost him the pole when he was sent to the rear. But he raced his way through traffic in the first stage and then took control of the championship.
Larson, with a series-high nine wins, will take the top spot. The four championship drivers get first crack at pit stall assignments.
It definitely doesn’t hurt for sure, he said. I dont know if its a championship-winning moment.
Elliott is the reigning champion, NASCARs most popular driver and defending race winner, while 2017 champion Truex won at Phoenix this spring. They join three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time championship loser Hamlin in chasing Larson.
Elliott said he didn’t think his speed was good enough to even take second, much less hold on for the pole.
The longer you go out there, it isn’t a bad thing, he said.
Larson actually has 10 wins, the non-points $1 million All-Star race isnt counted in his total, and his 2,474 laps led this season broke Jeff Gordons 20-year record.
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