Kurt Busch: “Short-run speed” needed for second trip to New Hampshire

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Kurt Busch was one of the stronger drivers in the Sprint Cup Series’ first visit of 2013 to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this past July, leading a race-high 102 laps before a multi-car incident relegated him to a 31st place finish.

However, there’s always room to improve and for the return trip to Loudon this weekend, the Chase contender feels that he’s going to need a car that’s every bit as good on shorter stints as it was on longer ones in July.

“I like to run the long runs there at New Hampshire,” Busch said in a NASCAR teleconference earlier today. “Making your car work for 100 laps at a time, I think, is key with some of the strategy that’s been played there the last few years on pitting and then running long distances.

“With that said, you cannot sacrifice short-run speed, and that’s where I think our Furniture Row car got in trouble in the first race is that our car was a bit too vulnerable.

“We couldn’t be aggressive on restarts and we got spun around by Kenseth, our championship leader, earlier this year. We have to protect our car better on short-run speed and still have that long-run speed in case it comes back to play.”

Busch finished fourth last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway after overcoming a pit road speeding penalty that he dubbed today “a bogus thing in my mind,” once again maintaining that his tachometer lights were green all the way down.

In a stat that no driver wants to lead, a reporter mentioned that Busch is tied with Casey Mears for the most pit road speeding violations this season at seven apiece.

Luckily for Busch, his penalty happened early on at Chicagoland. But that’s something he can ill afford to have happen to him in the closing stages of these Chase events.

“The thing that has to be clear internally with Furniture Row Racing is that the guy setting the tach isn’t going conservative on his own and then I’m going doubly conservative to make sure we’re not too conservative once we’re out performing,” he said.

“Because we have to perform in this Chase.  We can’t lose spots on pit road with slow pit stops and we can’t lose spots on pit road driving too slow in a speed zone.”

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.