Michael McDowell secures first NASCAR Cup Series pole in Atlanta

Michael McDowell secures first NASCAR Cup Series pole in Atlanta

Michael McDowell secured his first career NASCAR Cup Series pole on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Michael McDowell secured his first NASCAR Cup Series pole in his 467th career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway following a close runner-up finish in last week’s Daytona 500 qualifying.

McDowell edged Logano in qualifying for Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.54-mile track as the latter continued another strong day for Ford drivers by claiming the No. 2 spot.

“I think the first eight years of my career were rough so I’m enjoying it now, having fast race cars and a good team behind me,” McDowell said.

“At the same time it’s motivating, too, because I’m not getting any younger. I’m not saying I’m running out of time, but I have a lot of catching up to do.”

In single-car qualifying, the Front Row Motorsports driver topped the leaderboard with a speed of 178.844 mph (30.999 seconds). Having set the pace in the first round, he was the last participant to get back on track in the final qualifying round.

“I don’t think it’s too much of a coincidence,” McDowell said of his duels with Logano in back-to-back weeks. “I say that because with both qualifying sessions being a superspeedway and superspeedway package we sort of knew coming from Daytona that we were going to have good speed.

“So not a huge surprise but really cool. We need to back that up with a good result tomorrow, but I’m really proud of everybody at Front Row.

“It’s a big effort for us; got both cars in the top five, which is awesome.”

Logano who is the defending race winner in Atlanta, will start second after edging McDowell for the pole position in the Daytona 500 last weekend. He completed his loop at 178.424 mph.

Third-place qualifier was Kyle Busch (178.235 mph) followed by Todd Gilliland (178.80 mph) and Kyle Larson (177.829 mph) rounded out the top five. Ryan Blaney (177.658 mph), and Chris Buescher (177.176 mph) followed the order of qualifying in sixth and seventh respectively.

“That’s an improvement on where we were last year,” Larson said. “It pays absolutely nothing to qualify on the pole in any of these races, so I’m not too worried about qualifying.

“I’m glad to be one of the faster Chevys, but I don’t think anything about qualifying.”

Austin Cindric qualified eighth (177.147mph) while Chase Briscoe qualified ninth (177.125mph) as Austin Dillon rounded out the top ten (177.102mph).

Seven Ford drivers advanced to the last round of qualifying while the Chevrolet group claimed the remaining three spots. William Byron, the winner of the Daytona 500, qualified eleventh with a lap of 176.853 mph.

37 drivers secured their spots for the Ambetter 400. In the first qualifying session, Erik Jones battled to keep the car from spinning in Turns 3 and 4, finishing last at 164.554 mph.

Saturday’s session is the only Cup Series action that took place ahead of Sunday’s green flag well after 3 p.m. ET.

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