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Michael McDowell Scores Gateway Pole with Track Record Lap

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, NKP for Ford Performance

Michael McDowell and the No. 34 Ford Mustang Dark Horse team, led by Travis Peterson, have tied Kyle Larson with a season-high third pole position at World Wide Technology Raceway.

The Phoenix, Arizona-native posted a track-record-smashing lap in the opening round of qualifying (32.318s/139.241mph), before going out and backing it up in the final round, recording a pole-winning time of 32.468 seconds (138.598mph).

It’s the third career NASCAR Cup Series pole position for McDowell, all of which have come with Front Row Motorsports, this year — and the first on a non-drafting track for McDowell.

Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney, both members of the alliance between Team Penske and Front Row Motorsports, were second and third place in the final round of qualifying on Saturday, completing a Ford Performance sweep of the top three.

Christopher Bell, the winner of last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, will start Sunday’s 300-mile contest from fourth place, while fellow Toyota Racing Development (TRD) driver Tyler Reddick rounded out the top five.

Denny Hamlin led the back half of the top-10 qualifiers in sixth place, while Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs, and Kyle Busch earned starting spots of seventh through 10th.

After pacing Saturday’s early-morning practice session from World Wide Technology Raceway, Joey Logano narrowly missed out on advancing to the final round of time trials via Group A, and will start the Enjoy Illinois 300 from 12th.

Other notable drivers that failed to advance to the final round of qualifying include William Byron (11th), Kyle Larson (13th), Alex Bowman (14th), Ross Chastain (16th), Chase Elliott (17th), Martin Truex, Jr. (19th), and Chris Buescher (26th).

Just four days removed from announcing the team’s impending closure, Stewart-Haas Racing has struggled to find speed at WWT Raceway, with all four drivers qualifying worse than 23rd (Chase Briscoe). Noah Gragson slotted into 27th, Josh Berry 29th, and Ryan Preece was the slowest of the four in 32nd.

Zane Smith, driving the No. 71 Ambetter Health Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports, will round out the 36-driver field in Sunday’s 300-miler from Madison, Illinois, after posting the slowest time in the single-vehicle qualifying session at 33.420 seconds (134.650mph).

Starting Lineup: NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway

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