He won a pole on a road course, shattering the track record at Watkins Glen International on Saturday.
“This feels very good,” Busch said after posting a lap of 126.421 mph around the 11-turn, 2.45-mile circuit. “I’ve won races at road courses, but never been the fastest guy for one lap. Joey Logano did it at (the road course) at Sonoma (in June). Hopefully, we can get a win.”
Busch, who qualified last after posting the best time in practice on Friday, was nearly 2 mph faster than the mark Jeff Gordon set eight years ago. That knocked AJ Allmendinger off the pole and deprived Richard Petty Motorsports of a front row sweep.
Allmedinger turned a lap at 126.041 mph to edge teammate Marcos Ambrose’s speed of 125.984 mph.
“I’ve always been pretty good here,” said Allmendinger, who sits 17th in the Sprint Cup standings. “To get a good finish tomorrow, we’re right there in points. Obviously, if we get a win, it puts us in a chance for the Chase.
“But I’m not looking at that as make or break. We feel like if we can just keep getting better as the year goes on and have a good, strong finish to the end of the season, that’s going to be what I’m going to look at. This is a great place to start.”
Jimmie Johnson and defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top five. Teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart, points leader Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., and Regan Smith round out the top 10.
Gordon set the previous qualifying record of 124.580 mph in 2003, and 15 drivers eclipsed that mark on an overcast day, including Brad Keselowski in 12th, broken ankle and all.
Denny Hamlin, 11th in points, will start last after crashing during his qualifying run. Still, he was smiling in the garage.
“I committed to not giving up,” Hamlin said. “Our car was super fast. We wrote down in our notes that I wasn’t aggressive enough in qualifying. I wasn’t going to do that this time. But I’m excited how fast our car was, honestly.”
Kurt Busch, who won at Sonoma and is vying to join brother Kyle, Jeff Gordon, Stewart, and Robby Gordon as the only drivers to complete a season sweep on the two road courses, won the pole for the Nationwide race. But he bobbled during his Cup run and will start a dismal 27th.