LONG POND - Come Sunday afternoon at the young age of 25 years, one month and four days, Kyle Busch will become the youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver to reach 200 starts in his racing career.
When he takes the green at 1 p.m. for the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500, Busch will edge Brian Vickers, who previously held the mark at 25 years, 11 months and three days, for the honor.
Thanks to a two lap time of 53.266 seconds (169.485 miles per hour) during Friday's Weis Market Qualifying, Busch can now turn that career milestone into an even more impressive feat his first win at Pocono Raceway. He will have that chance after capturing his seventh pole in his career and second of the 2010 season.
While the No. 18 M&Ms Pretzel driver scored his 11th top 10 start in 11 races at Pocono Raceway, Busch is now looking to put his recent "struggles" on the 2.5-mile tri-oval to rest.
"Like I have documented in places before, this is a place I struggle at," said Busch, who has no wins, one top-five, two top-10s and has led a total of two laps in 10 career Sprint Cup starts at Pocono. "So, running well here means a lot. And, then just to have (crew chief) Dave Rogers and the guys bringing a great piece here to the racetrack, a good M&Ms Pretzel car is fun because you can come around here and it can be really frustrating at times around this place.
"You can beat your head against the headrest for almost a minute and a lap. But, when you have a good racecar, and you can run around there, you can look forward to coming to the next corner and do what you need to do to get the job donse."
After scoring a sixth best time and speed during practice, Busch became the 31st car to take the track and he quickly set the precedent for the rest of the qualifying session. The only person after himself to come close was three-time Pocono winner Danny Hamlin, who had to settle for a fifth starting spot tomorrow afternoon.
While Busch may have had his struggles over the years on the "Tricky Triangle," Hamlin didn't know what to say when he was asked why he's has had success racing at Pocono.
"We do finish well and it's just a track that we just always perform well at," said Hamlin. "I don't know exactly what it is. Mostly, it's got to be the car because when you've got a good car at this race track you can just make up a lot of time."
Until Busch's impressive laps, it was Clint Bowyer, the driver of the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamberger Helper Chevrolet, who became the first driver to surpass 169 miles per hour on the day.
Nearly 51 minutes into qualifying, Tony Stewart, the driver of the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, took the pole lead from Ryan Newman, the driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet who set the pole standards from the start.
Bowyer took it upon himself to surpass Stewart's best of 168.840 m.p.h. with the day's first speed over 169. While he was happy with his 15th best time in practice and his qualifying time, Bowyer was simply glad to stay within reach of a spot on front row.
"It was a good run," said Bowyer, who posted his seventh top-10 start of 2010 and his second in nine races at Pocono. "I'm proud of Shawn (Wilson, his crew chief) and all of the guys. I'm very proud of their efforts.
"Kyle Busch is always fast. I don't know how fast he would have run. It cooled off quite a bit. I really thought the No. 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) and some of the others would be even faster behind him, but I think our lap stood out pretty good and I'm pretty excited about it."
Although Busch surpassed Bowyer, a local fan favorite in Dale Earnhardt, Jr just couldn't push it anymore to exceed Bowyer's mark with his qualifying run. But the driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet was able to sneak away with a third-place start. In doing so, Earnhardt recorded his fifth top-10 start at Pocono and his eighth in 14 races this season.
Kurt Busch, who is fresh off of back-to-back wins in the last few weeks, will start in fourth. Three-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin will sit next to the elder Busch in fifth.