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Bad Boy Busch Is on the Pole

Biffle and Stewart can't catch Kyle Busch, who clocks a 133.744 mph qualifying lap.

April 21, 2006|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — Even in qualifying, Kyle Busch raises hackles.

The 20-year-old driver, who has been criticized by some fellow drivers and fans for his aggressive driving, won the pole position Thursday for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race Saturday night.

Busch is the defending winner of the fall race at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, and he picked up where he left off with a qualifying lap of 133.744 mph for the Subway Fresh 500.

After Busch parked his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet along pit road, more than a few fans greeted him rudely, and Busch responded by jumping on the pit wall and raising his arms.

"The fans were giving me great inspiration to go over there and give them a little celebration, so I gave them one," Busch said. "They were calling out my name, 'boooosssshhh' But there's some support out there, which was nice.

"I think Dale Earnhardt said it best," Busch added. "It's not whether you're getting boos or cheers, it's all about getting the most noise."

Busch also got the most speed Thursday, although his lap fell short of the record pole here, 135.854 mph, set by Ryan Newman of Penske Racing in 2004.

Greg Biffle, trying to shake off a frustrating start, will join Busch on the front row after qualifying second with his Roush Racing Ford at 133.383 mph.

Tony Stewart will start third in a Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet and Biffle teammate Matt Kenseth qualified fourth in a Ford.

Kasey Kahne, who won for the second time last week in Texas, qualified 22nd in an Evernham Motorsports Dodge.

NASCAR uses a drawing to determine the order for drivers to make their qualifying runs for the 43-car field, and those who qualified later in the day enjoyed an advantage because of cooler conditions in the desert, said Jeff Gordon, Busch's teammate.

Gordon was the 18th driver to run his qualifying laps, and he will start in the 19th position Saturday night.

"I always question when NASCAR puts [on] a qualifying session the way they do here," he said.

"You basically get a huge advantage with the luck of the draw. We have to run one- or two-tenths [of a second] faster than the guys at the end of qualifying because they have a lot cooler race track and better grip."

But Gordon's theory wasn't bulletproof.

Busch went out 23rd -- in the middle of the pack -- and still won the pole.

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