Joey Logan. (Logan Riley/Getty Images)
DARLINGTON, SC — The last time the NASCAR Cup Series competed at Darlington Raceway, it was Joey Logano on the pole in May.
Saturday was déjà vu again, as the Team Penske driver took his second pole of the season, at 168.521 mph.
“Obviously it’s good to start at the front. We got a taste of what that first pit lane means here at Darlington and it’s nice, for sure,” Logano said. “It’s definitely very close to the pit lane and you don’t have to re-accelerate all the way, so there are definitely places available in the pit lane. You can let the pit stall do the work and feel great about it. It’s nice to be able to get that, but it’s just a start.
“We still have a full 500 miles to go, but like I said, that first pit stop will pay dividends throughout the race, so we’ll just get going and see what we have tomorrow,” Logano continued. “Coming out of practice from the spring to the race the first time, the track was a lot different in the race than it was in practice. You have to assume that some of that will happen again tomorrow, so we’ll try to adjust our car a bit for the race. I think we need a little bit there, but I don’t think we’re that far away. If we can get a little more spin in our car, we’ll be there.”
Logano also claimed victory from pole position in May, giving the 32-year-old a boost heading into Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500.
“It feels different for sure. It’s hard to say why. I mean, the track temperature is a little bit different, so that’s part of it,” Logano said. “The other part is that we changed our car a lot to try to make it better than what we had in the spring. We weren’t the fastest car in the spring. The 1 (Ross Chastain) probably was and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) was good at times. The 18th (Kyle Busch) was good at times and we ran consistently throughout the race.
“We were good because we were able to run in the top three the entire race and the better car changed on the spot and we capitalized at the end when it mattered,” Logano continued. “Parts of my car feel better. Parts of my car I feel like we need to work on balance, so I think we’re in the ballpark. I said it before when I sat here, the track changed a lot in the spring race from practice to race. I guess the same thing will happen tomorrow.”
Behind Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell qualified second, with the Chevrolets of William Byron and Tyler Reddick blocking row two.
Two drivers who did not make the playoffs made it to the second qualifying round in Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell.
Wallace, driving the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota for the rest of the season after swapping numbers this week to help the team pursue the owners’ championship, qualified eighth.
McDowell stunned in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports machine, qualifying 10th.
It was a disappointing start to the weekend for some playoff teams, including 2014 Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick and 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, who both qualified 19th and 23, respectively.
Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez was unable to make a run in qualifying after his car failed three times before the session. The driver of the No. 99 will also have to serve a passing penalty once he waves the green flag on Sunday.