Kurt Busch earns Sprint Cup pole at Darlington

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One day after experiencing an IZOD IndyCar Series machine for the first time at Indianapolis, Kurt Busch stepped back into his familiar stock car environment and nabbed the pole for tomorrow night’s Sprint Cup Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Busch took the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet to the top of the charts in qualifying with a track-record lap of 181.918 miles per hour around “The Lady in Black.” It was enough to push defending Southern 500 champion Jimmie Johnson (180.974 mph) to the outside of the front row.

“I was real fast in [Turns] 1 and 2,” said Busch, who earned his 16th career Cup pole and first since 2011 (Michigan). “Maybe I left a little bit on the table getting into [Turn] 3, but it didn’t feel that fast. And when it doesn’t, that means the car was stuck really well. So that’s just a tribute to these Furniture Row guys. The confidence they had coming here this weekend stems from the years ago when they won here with Regan Smith [in 2011].”

“All the changes we made in practice, all of them made sense. Sometimes we took a step back; sometimes we took a step forward. But we had a distinct definition on each of the changes. So the car has been feeling pretty good.”

Kyle Busch, who is on pole for tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington, qualified third in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (180.920 mph) and will be joined on the second row by Kasey Kahne (180.741 mph). Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin are in Row 3, followed by a fourth row of Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon (who is making his 700th career Cup start this weekend), and Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick rounding out the Top 10 starting spots.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will go off from 16th on Saturday night, Cup champ Brad Keselowski from 26th, Talladega winner David Ragan from 31st, and Danica Patrick from 40th in a backup car after crashing her primary Chevy in practice.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.