BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — On another record-setting day at Michigan International Speedway, Joey Logano raced to one of the fastest qualifying speeds in NASCAR history.
Logano won the pole at 203.949 mph Friday in his No. 22 Ford, breaking the track record set by Marcos Ambrose last year. Ambrose’s mark of 203.241 came on the first Sprint Cup weekend on a newly paved surface at MIS. His record lasted 14 months.
Logano’s speed was the ninth-highest by a NASCAR pole winner — and the fastest since Bill Elliott set the record of 212.809 at Talladega on April 30, 1987.
“I don’t know how fast it is, but it feels freaking fast,” Logano said.
Kurt Busch qualified second, and points leader Jimmie Johnson was third.
Logano is 16th in the Cup standings, and this is his first pole of the year. He could use a good showing this weekend as he tries to make a final push to reach the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Logano is 27 points behind 10th-place Martin Truex Jr., and he hasn’t won a race this season. But a victory at Michigan could change everything, vaulting him closer to Chase position on points and boosting his chances at a wild card.
There are four races left before the Chase.
“We’re 27 points out. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the amount of cars that are in between us is a lot,” Logano said. “We’re one bad race from saying, ‘We’re out.’ So we’ve got to make the most out of these four.”
It’s the sixth career pole for the 23-year-old Logano. He’s coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes, although he hasn’t won in over a year. Logano finished ninth at Michigan in June.
Busch is in 11th place in the standings, so his solid starting position comes at a good time for him. Busch started second in this year’s earlier race at MIS, but he finished 35th.
“It’s really neat to overlay exactly what we did here in June, when we were outside pole, and try to improve on that,” Busch said. “The pace today was just quick. It was just an extreme pace that the qualifying simulations were showing us. I shot for a 35.35 (seconds) in my mind for a lap time and ran a 35.347. I thought it would be good enough for the pole, but Logano just hit it perfectly.”
Despite the high speeds, Busch said his ride was pretty smooth.
“When your car is good, it’s very stable,” Busch said. “When you run 203 mph, and you’re kicking yourself a little bit like I am for just going in a little too light, that’s just because the car was stable. So 203 mph is not a problem.
“That’s what Dave Ferroni, my PR guy, asked. He said, ‘Is that the fastest you’ve ever gone around a track in a stock car, average speed-wise?’ And I said, ‘Unbelievable. At 203 mph it didn’t feel like it.’”
Mark Martin qualified fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh. Defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski was ninth.
Johnson has never won in 23 Cup races at Michigan.
“Of course we wanted to be a little bit better, but we had a very smooth and clean practice session made some good changes to the car and found speed as the session went on,” Johnson said. “Came close to getting another pole during qualifying, so all in all just really good.”