EASLEY, S.C. — Home cooking has been good to Kyle Benjamin in the last two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East qualifying sessions at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, and that trend continued on Saturday afternoon.
Benjamin turned a track-record lap of 19.144 seconds (94.024 mph) around the recently-resurfaced half-mile to garner his third-straight 21 Means 21 Pole Award at Greenville, ahead of the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150.
New asphalt in the bottom groove of the corners attributed to the lightning-fast speeds turned on Saturday, with 18 of the 19 drivers breaking the old track record of 20.534 seconds (87.659 mph) set by Brett Moffitt in April of 2011.
The pole was the sixth of Benjamin’s K&N East career, all coming with MDM Motorsports in the No. 40 Chevrolet.
“We’ve been pretty good all day,” said the Easley native. “We tuned on it a lot, so that I could get up off the corners better with the new pavement. I think we hit on some things that will really help for tonight.”
“I didn’t know we were going to run a (19) teen though … I figured it would be a 20, so that surprised me a lot when I got out of the car. It’s really cool to have this kind of success, literally in my backyard, so hopefully we can win in front of these home fans again tonight.”
Saturday’s qualifying session was also the first time that the K&N East field has used the group qualifying format to set the grid. Each of three groups was given five minutes to set their fastest lap.
Dillon Bassett, who dominated the series’ season-opener at New Smyrna Speedway in February before tire troubles ended his run, clocked the second-fastest lap (19.195/93.774) and will seek his second-career victory come race time.
Benjamin’s MDM teammate Harrison Burton was third, beating out Rev Racing’s Ruben Garcia Jr. on a tiebreaker after both drivers ran a lap of 19.447 seconds (92.559 mph). Burton was in the final group, while Garcia’s lap came in group two.
Enrique Baca completed the top five, ahead of Tyler Dippel, defending K&N West champion Todd Gilliland, Jay Beasley, Reid Wilson and Ronnie Bassett Jr.
Chase Purdy timed in 14th after crash damage during testing on Friday forced him to a backup car.
The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 goes green at 7 p.m. ET, with tape-delayed coverage to be aired on NBC Sports Network.
Audio with pole winner Kyle Benjamin:
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…