Kyle Larson was the last driver on track Saturday in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying, and the best was definitely saved for last.
The No. 5 went to the top of the board to earn the pole for the United Rentals Work United 500 at 130.237mph (27.642s). The Hendrick Motorsports driver was the only one to crack 130mph as he scored his first pole of the season. It’s Larson’s second pole at Phoenix, coming after setting fastest times in Friday’s practice session and both rounds of single-car qualifying.
“It’s definitely a blast,” Larson said of driving a car this good. “A huge thank you to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and especially everybody on this No. 5 car (team) for getting a new aero package thrown at them and doing their homework and bringing a fast race car to the rack. Super happy about yesterday.
“I thought my car handled good and had a lot of speed, and then it translated to qualifying today. It’s a tough race tomorrow. These Next Gen races are really, really hard to win, so it’ll be nice to get a little bit of redemption from last week. But we’re off to a good start and that’s all you can ask for.”
Denny Hamlin joins Larson on the front row, having qualified second at 129.931mph.
“We’re really optimistic about our long-run speed,” Hamlin said. “Kyle’s just mad because I beat him at pickleball, so he chose to unleash his anger on us in qualifying. I’m proud of this whole (Shingrix Toyota Camry team) for putting us toward the front. This is all we can ask for. We typically always race better than we qualify, so I’m pretty optimistic.”
William Byron qualified third (129.922mph), Brad Keselowski fourth (129.762mph), and Christopher Bell fifth (129.580mph).
Ross Chastain qualified sixth (129.394mph), Michael McDowell seventh (129.185mph), Ryan Blaney eighth (129.083mph), Kyle Busch ninth (128.949mph), and Erik Jones 10th (128.880mph).
It is a career-best qualifying effort for McDowell at his home track.
“You always want more in the second round but really proud of everybody on this Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang,” McDowell said. “We weren’t very good in practice, but Travis Peterson and all the guys made good adjustments overnight.”
Josh Berry qualified 17th in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports car. Berry will make his second start with the team Sunday afternoon as the fill-in driver for the injured Chase Elliott.
NASCAR also confiscated the hood louvres from Justin Haley’s No. 31 Kaulig Racing car prior to qualifying. They will be evaluated at the NASCAR R&D Center along with louvres confiscated from Hendrick Motorsports earlier Saturday.