HAMPTON, GA – In 2018, Aric Almirola ended his over four year long winless streak in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action with a race win in the playoff race last October in Talladega. On Friday, the Stewart Haas Racing driver ended his nearly seven year drought of a top starting spot.
Almirola, posted a top lap of 181.473 mph in his No. 10 Ford en route to his first Cup Series pole since the Coca-Cola 600 in May 2012. He will lead the field to green in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Also, Almirola is the first Ford driver to earn a pole in the new Mustang. With Atlanta being the second race of the 2019 season and this being the first year in the Mustang, Almirola made history on Friday.
It was an overall great qualifying session for SHR in general. His teammates Clint Bowyer (180.410 mph) and Daniel Suarez (180.216 mph) will join him in the top five of the starting lineup with both starting third and fifth respectively.
Oddly, the only SHR driver to struggle was Kevin Harvick. He was battling steering issues all day and was only 18th quickest.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gave Ford a clean sweep of the front row with the Roush Fenway Racing native qualifying with a speed of 181.473 mph in his No. 17 Ford.
Last week’s Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin (180.328 mph) will round out the top five with the fourth starting spot in his No. 11 Toyota. His teammate Kyle Busch will start sixth to give JGR and SHR five of the top six starting spots.
The top Chevrolet driver was Kyle Larson who will start seventh.
This was the first qualifying round of the new rules package. With drafting being allowed now, everyone expected this to be pure chaos. But, with Atlanta being so abrasive on the Goodyear tires, drivers found in the lone practice session of the day that single car laps were quicker than ones with a drafting partner.
The horsepower reduction allowed most of the drivers to qualify around the 1.54-mile Georgia race track flat out as this year’s pole speed of 181.473 mph was over 3 mph slower than last year’s of 184.652 mph.
Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 2: Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin
Row 3: Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch
Row 4: Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch
Row 5: Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon
Row 6: Jimmie Johnson, Michael McDowell
Row 7: Ryan Newman, Paul Menard
Row 8: Erik Jones, Alex Bowman
Row 9: William Byron, Kevin Harvick
Row 10: Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto
Row 11: Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott
Row 12: David Ragan, Corey LaJoie
Row 13: Ryan Preece R, Ryan Blaney
Row 14: Joey Logano, Daniel Hemric R
Row 15: Darrell Wallace Jr., Chris Buescher
Row 16: Matt Tifft R, Ross Chastain
Row 17: Landon Cassill, Parker Kligerman
Row 18: Garrett Smithley, Cody Ware R
Row 19: BJ McLeod