LOUDON, N.H. – Carl Edwards continued his dominance of Coors Light Pole Qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, scoring his third pole in the last four Loudon races on Friday afternoon in advance of the second race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Edwards led both rounds one and three of knockout qualifying, setting a time of 28.119 seconds (135.453 mph) at the wheel of his No. 19 Comcast Business Toyota en route to his 22nd career Sprint Cup pole.
“These cars are great,” Edwards said. “This is a really fun place to drive when your car is as good as ours was there in qualifying today. (Crew chief) Dave (Rogers) made really good adjustments from round to round … and we needed this.”
“We didn’t run well at Chicago, so to come here, qualify on the pole and get a great pit stall is a huge boost and hopefully we can turn it into a great race on Sunday. This is fun. It’s a good day.”
The pole was Edwards’ sixth of the season, earning him a $25,000 bonus for charity from Coors Light due to the “six-pack.”
“MillerCoors is giving 25 grand for the six-pack, and half of it is going to Speedway Childrens’ Charities,” he explained. “The other half is going to The NASCAR Foundation in honor of Betty Jane France, so really cool of them to do that … and I’m glad because it’s going to help a lot of people.”
Round two qualifying leader Martin Truex Jr., who is already locked into the Round of 12 by virtue of his win at Chicagoland Speedway, qualified second with a time of 28.169 seconds (135.212 mph) for Furniture Row Racing.
Non-Chaser Ryan Newman impressed with his third-place effort in time trials, clocking a time of 28.235 seconds (134.896 mph) as the best driver not contending for the Sprint Cup title.
Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin rounded out the Fast Five, followed by Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, non-Chaser Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.
10 of the 16 Chase contenders were present in the final round of qualifications.
Kurt Busch was the first car – and the first Chase contender – who missed the cutoff into the final round, posting a lap of 28.348 seconds (134.359 mph) in his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet.
In fact, all four Stewart Haas Racing cars failed to make it past round two, with Kevin Harvick (19th), Tony Stewart (23rd) and Danica Patrick (24th) having tough days in qualifying.
“We just made a couple of changes and had a car that ended up being really loose on exit compared to where we were in practice,” Busch said. “The [digital] dash actually said I ran a lap time fast enough to advance, but obviously the [scoring] beacon is in a slightly different spot. It’s all good though … we’ll just go into tomorrow and get our exit fixed so we can be strong in the race.”
Other notables who were unable to challenge for the pole included Chaser and former Loudon winner Joey Logano (15th), as well as the Wood Brothers entry of Ryan Blaney (16th).
Brian Scott was the first car that failed to advance out of round one, posting a time of 28.645 seconds (132.966 mph) in his No. 44 Albertsons/Shore Lodge Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports and securing the 25th starting position.
Two Chase drivers failed to advance out of the first knockout round – rookie Chris Buescher and Austin Dillon. The pair timed in 28th and 29th, respectively.
“We just have to go to work on this car,” Dillon said. “If we work hard as a team and don’t give up, we’ll be alright. We’ve got two practices [on Saturday] and a long race on Sunday. We’ll be just fine.”
“Our team just doesn’t have a whole lot of fire-off speed at Loudon,” Buescher admitted. “That’s how our weekend went the last time we were here. It’s unfortunate to qualify like we did and it makes for a longer day on Sunday, but I’m proud of this team. They’re working hard and we’re privileged to be here. We earned this spot [in the Chase] and we’re going to keep making the best of it.”The only caution during qualifying flew with 11 minutes and 39 seconds to go in the opening round, after Clint Bowyer spun exiting turn four as he came to get the green flag.
Bowyer was ultimately able to get back on track for a qualifying run and will start 37th on Sunday.
Despite inspection issues that delayed multiple cars – including Chase contenders Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart – from getting on track in the first round, all 40 cars on the grounds were able to make a qualifying attempt in the 20-minute session.