Aric Almirola wraps up Busch Pole Award in Nashville qualifying

Aric Almirola secured the Busch Pole Award and the No. 1 starting position for the NASCAR Cup Series’ debut at Nashville Superspeedway.

Aric Almirola secured the Busch Pole Award and the No. 1 starting position for the NASCAR Cup Series’ debut at Nashville Superspeedway.

Almirola, the second driver to make a run, clocked a best lap of 161.992 mph in Sunday morning’s qualifying at the 1.33-mile Tennessee track. That speed places his No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in the top starting spot for Sunday’s Ally 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM).

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In landing his third career Cup Series pole, Almirola acknowledged the struggles that the No. 10 team has had this season. The 37-year-old driver sits 28th in the standings with just one top-10 finish through 16 races this year, but expressed hope that he and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz might be able to build on Sunday’s solid starting spot.

“We’ve been trying so hard to get back to the way we know how to run,” Almirola said. “Just proud of Buga and all the guys on this team. Something good finally happened to us, and hopefully we can put it together for a whole day.”

Kyle Busch will start alongside Almirola on the front row after logging the second-fastest speed — 161.910 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Joey Logano, William Byron and Kyle Larson finished out the top five in qualifying.

Erik Jones scuffed the outside retaining wall exiting Turn 4 as he completed his qualifying lap. He posted the ninth-best time with the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. Quin Houff also brushed the outside wall through Turns 1 and 2 during his qualifying run. He did not post a qualifying time and is scheduled to start last in the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr., a three-time winner in the series this season, is set to start well back in 35th place after his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota washed up out of the racing groove on his qualifying lap.

Sunday’s event — set for 300 laps (399 miles) — is the first for NASCAR’s top division at Nashville Superspeedway, which sprang back to life for its first NASCAR weekend since 2011. It’s the first Cup Series event in the Music City area since the circuit last raced at the Nashville fairgrounds in 1984.