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Michael McDowell Earns Second Career Cup Pole at Talladega Superspeedway

Photo Credit: Craig White,

Looking to hunt down its first NASCAR National Series victory of 2024, Ford Performance has brought some fast-running Dark Horse Mustangs to Talladega Superspeedway, sweeping the top three positions in qualifying for Sunday’s GEICO 500.

Michael McDowell and Front Row Motorsports proved to once again be unstoppable in qualifying on the superspeedways, leading both rounds of qualifying by a sizeable margin. It’s the second career pole for the Phoenix, Arizona-native, and the third front-row start for the No. 34 this year.

In the final round of qualifying, the 39-year-old racer posted a stunning time of 52.609 seconds (182.022mph) to earn himself the best starting spot for Sunday’s 188-lap event. McDowell posted a lap eight-hundredths of a second quicker than any driver in the final round en route to the pole.

Austin Cindric earned the season-best second-place starting spot, driving the No. 2 Ford Mustang for Team Penske — a new alliance partner for Front Row Motorsports this season. McDowell’s teammate at FRM, Todd Gilliland, earned a career-best starting spot of third place in his No. 38 Ford Mustang.

A pair of Chevrolet-backed drivers completed the top five in Saturday’s qualifying session, both from Richard Childress Racing, with Kyle Busch earning a fourth-place start and Austin Dillon just behind him in fifth.

Martin Truex, Jr. was the fastest Toyota in sixth place, while Joey Logano, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, and Christopher Bell completed the top-10 after all getting a second on-track lap in qualifying on Saturday.

Ryan Preece will be starting Sunday’s GEICO 500 from 11th, after getting bumped out of the second round of qualifying at the very last minute, when Texas winner Chase Elliott went seven one-thousandths of a second quicker than the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.

Contrary to the traditional performance of Hendrick Motorsports in superspeedway qualifying, Alex Bowman and William Byron both failed to advance to the second round of Saturday’s time trial session and will start from the 12th and 13th positions.

Other notable drivers who failed to advance to the final round of qualifying include Bubba Wallace (14th), Ty Gibbs (15th), Tyler Reddick (18th), Ryan Blaney (21st), Brad Keselowski (22nd), Denny Hamlin (23rd), Daniel Suarez (25th), Ross Chastain (32nd), and Noah Gragson (36th).

Kyle Larson, winner of the last three NASCAR Cup Series poles at Richmond, Martinsville, and Texas, will start shotgun on the field for Sunday’s 500-mile contest at the 2.66-mile superspeedway after NASCAR determined the team made modifications to the roof rail as the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro was rolled to the grid.

The NASCAR Cup Series will tackle the 2.66-mile superspeedway of Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 21, with the event taking place at 3:30 PM ET on FOX.

Qualifying Results: NCS GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

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