The NASCAR Cup Series drivers headed onto Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, May 23, with the goal of qualifying in a top spot. There were two sessions that set the order in Texas, and they created considerable intrigue. Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick ultimately turned in the best sessions and ended the morning as the Busch Pole winner.
Reddick posted the only lap under 2:13.00, turning in a time of 2:12.91 while showcasing the amount of work that he has put in during the offseason. Reddick explained to Fox Sports after qualifying that he has been notoriously bad at road courses, but he and his team spent the offseason trying to improve.
The hard work resulted in Reddick’s career-first Busch Pole and a historic moment for the racing team. The late Dale Earnhardt was the last RCR driver to win the pole at a road course, doing so in 1996 at Watkins Glen. Reddick will now join the seven-time champion on the list of drivers to win the pole at a road course for RCR, and he will aim to deliver the first-ever COTA Cup Series trophy.
RCR’s first Cup Series pole on a road course since Dale Earnhardt at Watkins Glen in 1996.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 23, 2021
Reddick will start on the pole while Kyle Larson will join him on the front row. Austin Cindric and Kyle Busch will make up the second row while William Byron and Joey Logano will round out the top six. Two road course stars — AJ Allmendinger and Chase Elliott — will start the race on the fourth row while looking to add another trophy to their respective collections.
The First Qualifying Session Featured an Intense Battle at the Cutoff Line
The NASCAR qualifying format sent 12 drivers to the second and final round. There were several drivers that easily advanced, such as Busch and Allmendinger. Others fought for the final spots above the cutoff line.
The final minutes of the first qualifying session featured a fascinating battle between several of the Cup Series’ biggest stars. Kurt Busch and Cole Custer had the final two spots with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, but Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman bumped them with faster lap times.
Busch was not yet done. He headed back out onto the track and turned in a lap strong enough to put him back in the top 12. He remained in this spot as the seconds ticked away, but Bowman used a different strategy and edged him out by a mere .13 seconds. Though Busch later told Fox Sports that he had shaved off three seconds from his simulation time simply by getting behind the wheel of an actual car.
Hendrick Motorsports Continues To Put On a Show
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 23, 2021
Entering the 2021 season, there was considerable attention on the four-car Hendrick Motorsports stable. The four drivers — Larson, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, and William Byron — have continued to impress with the fastest cars on the track, and Sunday was no different.
The four HMS drivers all posted impressive times during the opening round of qualifying. Byron topped the group with a time of 2:14.127 while Larson (2:14.192), Elliott (2:14.352), and Bowman (2:14.578) followed. Only two other teams, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, had multiple drivers in the top 12.
Once the final qualifying session began, Larson jumped to the top of the leaderboard with the fastest time. His time atop the pole did not last for very long due to Reddick’s strong performance, but Larson still set himself up to start on the front row for the 68-lap race.
The EchoPark Texas Grand Prix will take place Sunday, May 23, at 2:30 p.m. ET. FS1 will broadcast the unique road course race while Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Mike Joy call the action from the booth. Jamie Little and Regan Smith will serve as pit reporters while Larry McReynolds provides analysis from the studio.
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