Aric Almirola, a non-playoff driver, won the pole for Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver claimed the fourth pole of his Cup career by edging out teammate Chase Briscoe with a top speed of 128.382 mph around the short track.
Briscoe posted a speed of 128.193 mph.
It is Almirola’s first pole since the 2021 race at Nashville Superspeedway.
“I felt like we had a really good (car) in practice,” said Almirola, who had the 14th best overall speed in practice. “We ran I think 55 laps straight and I felt really good about it and we swapped over to (qualifying) trim and we still got a lot of speed. … We were bummed out, didn’t make the playoffs. But we’re showing what we’re capable of. We can race with these guys.”
The top five was completed by Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin and defending Bristol night race winner Kyle Larson.
Following Larson in the top 10 is Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric.
The only other non-playoff driver starting in the top 10 is Brad Keselowski in 10th. It’s only his sixth top-10 starting position of the season.
Click here for the NASCAR Cup Bristol Night Race Starting Lineup
Before qualifying, two 15 minute practice sessions were held with the field split in two.
Playoff driver Denny Hamlin was fastest overall with a top speed of 125.848 mph around the track.
The top five had three more playoff drivers – Austin Cindric, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch – plus the non-playoff entry of AJ Allmendinger.
Hamlin experienced an issue with his steering that improved as the session went along.
“There’s a concern, I don’t what we do about it … It got better the second and third run that I went out,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “If it comes up during the race, I just got to deal with it. It’s going to hinder our performance. With lap times not falling off at all, I don’t know that we want to give up any track position at all costs.”
Christopher Bell, who was sixth overall, was fastest in Group A (124.703 mph).
Click here for the practice report.
With more than five minutes left in the Group B practice session, Kyle Busch lost control and spun as he entered Turn 1. Busch didn’t hit anything and Austin Cindric narrowly avoided colliding with him as Busch slid down the track.
HOLY COW.— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 16, 2022
Kyle Busch spun in practice and almost got collected by Austin Cindric. #NASCARPlayoffs
📺 : @USA_Network pic.twitter.com/PIIwPecWj5