LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kyle Busch will start his drive for his fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup victory from a familiar spot, out front and in first.
Busch turned a lap of 178.416 mph Friday at Pocono Raceway to win the pole for the first time during his sensational streak.
He also made it three straight Cup poles for Joe Gibbs Racing following back-to-back wins from Carl Edwards.
Busch missed the first 11 races of the season with a broken right leg and left foot. He returned in late May and has won three consecutive Sprint Cup Series races and four of the last five.
“Hopefully, it’s got 16 weeks left in it,” he said. “It’s just amazing what we’re on.”
He’s trying to become the first Cup driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2007 to win four straight races. Busch won on the road course at Sonoma, then took the last three races at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis.
Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and Tony Stewart.
Logano, who wasn’t won since the Daytona 500, refused to say Busch is the driver to beat down the stretch.
“It doesn’t get in our head. He is just fast right now,” Logano said. “We are not slow by any means. We are close. I think we know some areas we can improve on and like any good competitor you study what others are doing to beat you. You have to look at that. That is the only way you become better.”
Busch is 23 points away from cracking the top 30 in the standings. NASCAR granted him a waiver that will make him eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship should he be ranked inside the top 30 in points. He’s shaved 150 points off the deficit over the last five races, with a 17th-place finish at Daytona the only time he failed to park the No. 18 Toyota in victory lane.
With another strong run in Sunday’s race, Busch could hit the top 30. He has never won at Pocono and has eight top-10 finishes in 21 starts on the tri-oval track.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Busch said. “I have been through some down times, that’s for sure.”
With crew chief Adam Stevens calling all the right moves, Busch has become the hottest driver in NASCAR — and maybe all of sports.
“Things are really looking good for the 18 car,” Busch said.
Kurt Busch was sixth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.
Gordon, who finished 42nd at the Brickyard, is Pocono’s career wins leader with six. He reiterated that he has no plans to race beyond this season’s finale at Homestead, though he would not rule out the occasional race, if he could find a team.
“That’s a total disruption to the organization to go do a one-off race,” Gordon said. “It’s not that it can’t be done. But, as somebody who is an equity owner in the organization, I recognize the challenges that would come along with that and what it would do to our four teams competing for the wins and championships. So, I probably wouldn’t ask them to do that.”
Johnson, the six-time series champion, won Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix in 2007 and was seventh in the season finale at Homestead.
Busch, who will drive in Saturday’s Truck Series race, would love to stamp his name in the record book with the milestone victory.
“The last couple of years, I bought Powerball tickets,” Busch said. “Now I’m not. I’ll keep my luck to the race track. I don’t need good luck to win the lottery. I feel like I already have with the job I have.”