NASCAR Nationwide Series championship leader Chase Elliott has scored his second pole of 2014 for tonight’s Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Elliott’s lap of 181.354 mph in the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet was set early in the final round of knockout qualifying and was able to stand up over Matt Kenseth’s lap of 180.977 mph in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
It’s the perfect place to be for Elliott, who will try to extend his 38-point lead in the championship this evening. Elliott can win the title with a Top-5 finish in each of the final four races.
Behind Elliott and Kenseth in Row 2 will be Richard Childress Racing’s Brian Scott and JGR’s Elliott Sadler. Kyle Busch, who’s won back-to-back Nationwide Series races, shall try to make it three in a row from the inside of Row 3 alongside Sprint Cup super-rookie Kyle Larson.
Another Cup rookie, Alex Bowman, will line up in Row 4 with Trevor Bayne. Ryan Reed and Brad Keselowski will start from Row 5.
Regan Smith, Elliott’s closest pursuer in the title race, is starting farther back from 22nd in the field. That may not bode well for his battle for second place in the standings with Ty Dillon, who qualified 11th. Smith is only up by two points over Dillon.
Green flag for tonight’s 300-miler is scheduled to drop shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET.
The magic of dirt racing wins for Kyle Larson continued Thursday night at Knoxville Raceway, where he scored his third consecutive World of Outlaws victory at the famed half-mile track to open “The One and Only.”
After starting 10th, Larson sliced through the field and passed pole-sitter Logan Schuchart to lead the final eight laps in the No. 57 of car owner Paul Silva.
“Just an awesome race,” Larson said after earning $10,000 for his second consecutive NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory (after winning at Pevely, Missouri, last Saturday), his sixth Outlaws victory this season and 14th of his career.
“I was able to track Logan down and hit the bottom really well in (turns) 1 and 2 and got a run on him. It felt like I needed to take advantage of that before we got to heavier traffic and slid him and felt some contact. So, glad to see him not in the wall or anything like that. Just, hard work there. Heartbeat is up again.”
The One and Only continues Friday night with another $10,000 feature race that will set the starting lineup for Saturday’s Brownells Capitani Classic, which pays $50,000 to win.
The event is the Outlaws’ richest purse of 2020 and subs in for the annual Knoxville Nationals, which was canceled for COVID-19 concerns. Larson, a two-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up, has said winning The One and Only would be on the same as Knoxville’s signature event because of its tough three-day format.
Through the first of three nights, Schuchart and Larson are tied for second in The One and Only points standings, which factor in qualifying, heats, dash and feature races. Aaron Reutzel, an All Star Circuit of Champions stalwart who finished third Thursday, leads with 430 points.
A crash in Thursday’s 25-lap feature eliminated past Outlaws champions Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz after Cory Eliason spun in front of Sweet in Turn 1 to start the wreck, which also collected Sweet’s teammate, James McFadden. Sweet and Schatz finished outside the top 20, which moved Schuchart into the points lead for the 2020 season.
Schuchart still seemed slightly miffed after finishing second to Larson.
“As the race went on, I felt like I wasn’t hitting my marks as good,” he said. “I would have liked to of had a little bit better of a race with Kyle there. I wish his slide job was a little better there, but he’s got a reputation to live up to. That’s where you let other people make the rules and maybe we’ll get him next time.”