By Gary B. Graves
AP Sports Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Carl Edwards won his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup pole Friday, helping Joe Gibbs Racing take four of the top five spots in qualifying Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Edwards, the winner at Bristol in March 2014, earned his third pole at the track and second consecutive No. 1 spot after also topping qualifying last week at Texas. He had a fast lap of 127.997 mph in the No. 19 Toyota Camry on the 0.533-mile track. Kurt Busch also won consecutive poles this season.
That could bode well for Edwards, whose previous two Bristol poles yielded a second in March 2011 and one of his three wins in August 2008.
“This one’s really special, because Bristol is tough,” Edwards said. “I feel really good about chances in the race because of the race trim we ran.”
Next was teammate and defending race winner Matt Kenseth at 127.419, with Joey Logano third in a Ford at 127.191. That duo each has two wins over the past five Bristol races.
Denny Hamlin will start fourth and Kyle Busch fifth in JGR Toyotas. Busch has swept the past two NASCAR weekends.
Edwards stood 10th after the first practice and was second to Logano after the first qualifying round. He fell a spot to third after the second round but turned it on in the final session for his 18th career pole.
“That’s pretty cool to run a less than 15-second lap,” Edwards said. “It’s a real testament to my guys and everybody on this team has been working so hard.
“You see it each week the JGR Toyotas are up front and these cars are really nice to drive. Dave Rogers (crew chief) and everybody did a really nice job.”
Martin Truex Jr. qualified eighth to make it five Toyotas in the top 10. Trevor Bayne (10th) was the other Ford driver.
Jimmie Johnson (sixth), Kevin Harvick (seventh) and A.J. Allmendinger (ninth) rounded out the top 10.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Kyle and Kurt Busch have the most Bristol wins among active drivers with five each, while Kenseth has four. Given Kyle Busch’s overall record here and recent sweep of Martinsville and Texas, it wouldn’t be a stretch if he took charge again on Sunday. He could have plenty of company from guys who have been just as strong here.
WRECKED: Ty Dillon, driving the No. 14 Chevy in place of injured Tony Stewart, spun coming off turn 2 during qualifying and made contact with the back of Landon Cassill’s No. 38 Ford. He appeared to clip the apron and spun before the right side of his car got into Cassill’s rear.
FAST ROOKIES: Ryan Blaney was 18th in the No. 21 Ford with a speed of 125.330 mph. Chase Elliott was right behind him at 125.134 in the No. 24 Chevy.
MIXED BAG: Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson has one win and one pole in 28 Bristol starts. On other hand, he has 16 top-10s and 10 top-fives and was fairly happy with his qualifying effort. “Practice sessions can be quite frustrating for us here and qualifying sessions,” he said. “To be off to a good, calm, smooth, fast start is really good for us.”
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