Almirola powers to Bristol Cup pole

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Aric Almirola is the latest non-playoff driver to steal a headline as he grabbed the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol in Friday’s qualifying. He went to the top of the charts with a lap of 128.382mph (14.946s). It’s his first pole of the season and the first time he’ll lead the field to the green flag at Bristol. “Well, just keep tuning on it,” Almirola said when asked about finishing where he starts the race. “I felt like we had a really good BlueOval City Ford Mustang in practice, and we ran, I think, 55 laps straight, and I felt really good about it. We swapped over to trim and it still has a lot of speed. “I’m really proud of the effort on this. We were bummed out we didn’t make the playoffs, but we’re showing what we’re capable. We can race with these guys. We’ll go try to do it for 500 laps tomorrow night.” Almirola is the first non-playoff driver to win a pole in the postseason. The first two races at Darlington Raceway and Kansas Speedway, however, were won by drivers who are not championship eligible – Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace. Stewart-Haas Racing drivers will make up the front row. Alongside Almirola will be Chase Briscoe, who qualified second at 128.193mph. Alex Bowman qualified third at 128.176mph, Denny Hamlin fourth at 128.159mph, and Kyle Larson fifth at 127.911mph. Larson is the defending winner of the Bristol night race. Ryan Blaney qualified sixth at 127.852mph, Kevin Harvick seventh at 127.665mph, Christopher Bell eighth at 127.436mph, Austin Cindric ninth at 127.258mph, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10 at 127.216mph. Eight playoff drivers qualified 12th or worse. Ross Chastain qualified 12th, followed by Joey Logano in 15th. William Byron was 16th fastest ahead of Tyler Reddick in 17th. Chase Elliott qualified 23rd and Austin Dillon qualified 28th. Daniel Suarez was the lowest qualifying playoff driver in 29th. UP NEXT: Bass Pro Shops Night Race at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday. STARTING LINEUP

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