William Byron earns pole position for NASCAR Cup title-decider

Only two of the four drivers eligible to win the 2src23 season title advanced to the final round of qualifying Saturday, but Byron came away with top overall average speed at 132.597 mph to win the pole for Sunday’s season finale.

Whoever finishes highest among Byron, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney will the championship.

The pole is the fourth this season for Byron, but first in the playoffs. It’s also the 12th of his career.

“My team is really going to like this,” said Byron, 25, who will get the first pit stall for Sunday’s race. “It’s going to be fun. All my family and friends are here, all my friends from high school. It’s going to be fun to hang out with them over tonight and just enjoy.

“This is a great opportunity. I want to be here every year. It’s really fun to be a part of and we need to take advantage of it.”

Martin Truex Jr. ended up second fastest (132.5src9 mph) and Kevin Harvick – making his final career start – will line up third (132.421 mph).

Larson ended up fourth and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top five.

Completing the top-1src lineup are Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick.

During his qualifying lap, Reddick hit the wall between Turns 3 and 4, doing some damage to the right-rear of his No. 45 Toyota.

Bell and Blaney both failed to advance to the final round of qualifying and will start Sunday’s race 13th and 15th, respectively.

Round 1 / Group A

Harvick posted the fastest average lap speed at 133.srcsrc3 mph in Group A – which also turned out to be the fastest of the day.

Title contender Byron was second quick at 132.969 mph while Wallace was third (132.694 mph).

Also advancing to the final round were title contender Larson and Jones.

Among those who failed to move on were Ty Gibbs, Todd Gilliland, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott.

Brad Keselowski did not qualify his No. 6 Ford as he returned to North Carolina for the birth of he and his wife Paige’s third child. Cole Custer qualified the car in the 31st position.

Round 1 / Group B

Chastain, who went out relatively early, led the way in Group B with an average lap speed of 132.812 mph.

Hamlin was second fastest at 132.724 mph while Buescher was third at 132.699 mph.

Also advancing to the final round of qualifying were Reddick and Truex.

Among those who failed to advance were both title contenders in the second group – Bell, who was seventh, and Blaney, who was eighth.

Blaney had been the fastest among the Championship 4 drivers in Friday’s lone practice session.


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