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Mar 11, 2023 4:56 pm

Kyle Larson blitzes field to win NASCAR Cup pole at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Larson continued his dominance at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday with a pole-winning run for Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500.

Larson topped the speed chart in Friday’s 50-minute NASCAR Cup Series practice session and posted the fastest lap of the weekend in the first round of time trials, covering the 1.0-mile distance in 27.324 seconds (131.752 mph).

In the final round of qualifying, Larson was the only driver to top 130 mph. Last to post a lap in the money round, Larson ran 130.237 mph (27.642 seconds) to knock Denny Hamlin (129.931 mph) off the provisional pole.

The importance of the pole position was not lost on Larson, who won the Cup Series championship from the first starting position in 2021.

“It means a lot,” said Larson, who scored his first Busch Light Pole Award of the season, his second at Phoenix and the 15th of his career. “We got the pole in ’21, and that really helped us win the championship race.

“Joey (Logano) had an extremely fast car in the fall last year. He got the pole as well and won. Being in that No. 1 pit stall means a lot, so happy to be quick this weekend and quick in practice and have it translate in qualifying.”

Larson said the performance of his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in Turns 1 and 2 made the difference.

“Looking at (the data), I felt like my ability to roll some center-corner speed in 1 and 2 gave me a little bit of an advantage,” Larson said. “There’s definitely some cars that are better than me in 3 and 4, but we’re also competitive over there, too.

“So I feel like there’s a lot of room behind the wheel to get a lot better in 3 and 4. My car’s fine. I just think I have to do some things different to get better in 3 and 4, and we should be really good.”

Last Sunday’s Las Vegas winner, William Byron, qualified third at 129.922 mph, just .002 seconds behind Hamlin. Brad Keselowski (129.762 mph) will start fourth on Sunday in the fastest Ford.

Christopher Bell earned the fifth starting spot, followed by Ross Chastain, Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones. The top 10 starters include five Chevrolets, three Fords and two Toyotas.

Josh Berry, substituting for injured Chase Elliott, will start 17th beside Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman, one of two drivers with top-10 finishes in the first three races of the season.

The other, Daniel Suarez, will start 11th after narrowly missing the final round.

–By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

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