Kyle Busch takes pole for Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

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Tomorrow night, Kyle Busch will seek to win his second Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway from the pole after posting a lap at 193.723 miles per hour during today’s qualifying sessions. For “Rowdy,” the occasion was a bit of history for him, as it was the first time he’d ever taken pole position on a restrictor-plate track.

“I never thought I’d ever get one,” Busch admitted to NASCAR.com. “But I guess never says never. It’s pretty cool, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the driver, but it has everything to do with the car and equipment you’re driving.”

Busch led a Toyota sweep of the top three positions on the grid in qualifying. He’ll be joined on the front row tomorrow night by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and Kentucky winner Matt Kenseth, whose lap at 193.299 miles per hour wasn’t quite enough to nab P1. Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer (193.158 mph) will start from the inside of Row 2 alongside Kasey Kahne, who led the Chevrolet camp this afternoon with a 193.154 mph lap.

Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard will go off from Row 3, followed by Michael Waltrip and championship leader Jimmie Johnson in Row 4, and Roush Fenway teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle in Row 5.

Danica Patrick, who was a last-lap contender for victory at the season-opening Daytona 500, will start 11th – two spots of her boss and defending Coke Zero 400 champ Tony Stewart in 13th. Defending Cup champ Brad Keselowski and longtime Daytona threat Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 15th and 16th, respectively.

COKE ZERO 400 – STARTING GRID
1. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 193.723 mph.
2. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 193.299.
3. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 193.158.
4. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 193.154.
5. (56) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 193.129.
6. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 193.075.
7. (55) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 193.058.
8. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 193.009.
9. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 192.984.
10. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 192.947.
11. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 192.93.
12. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 192.901.
13. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 192.876.
14. (42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 192.864.
15. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 192.802.
16. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 192.798.
17. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 192.724.
18. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 192.715.
19. (13) Casey Mears, Ford, 192.715.
20. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 192.583.
21. (39) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 192.522.
22. (78) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 192.489.
23. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 192.448.
24. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 192.439.
25. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 192.197.
26. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 192.152.
27. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 191.877.
28. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 191.755.
29. (7) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 191.546.
30. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 191.306.
31. (98) Michael McDowell, Ford, 190.795.
32. (36) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, 190.735.
33. (51) A J Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 190.726.
34. (47) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 190.375.
35. (30) David Stremme, Toyota, 190.202.
36. (95) Scott Speed, Ford, 189.853.
37. (35) Josh Wise, Ford, Owner Points.
38. (34) David Ragan, Ford, Owner Points.
39. (32) Terry Labonte, Ford, Owner Points.
40. (93) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, Owner Points.
41. (83) David Reutimann, Toyota, Owner Points.
42. (87) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Owner Points.
43. (33) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Owner Points.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”