LOUDON, N.H. — In 14 previous starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch struggled to find the fast way around the 1.058-mile oval.
Busch would get stymied by his search for the right setup to circumnavigate the tricky flat oval.
Busch finally hit upon something Friday.
The last of 44 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, Busch earned the right to start first in the 43-car grid when he captured the pole position for Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301. He did a quickie tour of NHMS with a fast lap of 28.548 seconds, 133.417 miles per hour, in his No. 18 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.
“It’s just a matter of finding the right setup and finding whatever works,’’ said Busch, who earned his first pole of the season, second at NHMS since 2008, and ninth of his career in 276 Sprint Cup races.
“I think we’ve come here different every single time,’’ said Busch, who was fastest in Friday’s Sprint Cup practice session with a lap of 28.555 seconds (133.385 m.p.h.). “But we haven’t found the magic way to get around the ‘Magic Mile,’ so I think today we did.’’
Busch negated the fast lap posted by Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne, whose 28.551-second lap was a tick faster than Busch’s teammate, Denny Hamlin (28.552).
“I was right on the edge the whole lap of being just a little too free,’’ said Kahne, who will be on the outside pole in the second starting position. “But I was able to make it work. In the final corner I tried getting one more lap, which it didn’t seem like anybody was going faster the second lap, but I still tried and got too loose there and just pulled it in. It was still a solid lap.
“It was really close,’’ said Kahne. “As far as the times, everybody is really close, but I’m glad my car feels great.’’
After Kahne withstood challenges from Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle to remain atop the speed chart, Kyle Busch wrested the pole away with his fast lap, one in which he seemed to brush the wall exiting Turn 4.
“I thought I missed it a little bit,’’ Busch said of his pole-winning lap. “It was decent, it was a good lap for us, but I thought I was probably going to be third or fourth. I just felt like I didn’t get the throttle down as quick as I needed to off Turn 2 and I was a little slow down the back. Through 3 and 4, I really got through there well and used up all the racetrack I needed to in order to set a fast lap.’’
Asked if he had touched the wall, Busch replied, “I don’t think we touched — I didn’t feel it so if anything it was really, really close. I just knew that I got in the throttle really early in [Turns] 3 and 4 trying to make speed and was able to finish it, but the car slipped right at the last second.
“When you get to that older asphalt, it seems like this [Goodyear] tire is different than the older tire, where you lose just a touch of group. It slid out to the cushion part, I guess you would say. There’s no mark on the car, so all is good there.’’
Hamlin, showing no ill effects from the back spasms that plagued him in last Saturday’s Coke Zero 400, said it came as no surprise to see Busch, his JGR teammate, running on the ragged edge.
It was, after all, well within Busch’s comfort zone.
“Kyle will always be the fastest member at Joe Gibbs Racing when it comes to being able to get the most out of his racecar, one lap, pure speed,’’ Hamlin said.
“For me to be remotely in the same area code as him says something good about me, but I’m happy just to be able to see him at the start.’’Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.