Almirola wins the pole for Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, USA, PRN)

BRISTOL, Tenn — Aric Almirola may not have made the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver will look to give non playoff drivers a clean sweep of the opening round of the postseason. Almirola turned a lap of 128.382 mph in his No. 10 Ford to earn his 4th career Busch Pole Award.

“Well, just keep tuning on it,” Almirola said when asked about finishing where he starts the race. “I felt like we had a really good BlueOval City Ford Mustang in practice, and we ran, I think, 55 laps straight, and I felt really good about it. We swapped over to [qualifying] trim and it still has a lot of speed.

“I’m really proud of the effort on this. We were bummed out we didn’t make the playoffs, but we’re showing what we’re capable. We can race with these guys. We’ll go try to do it for 500 laps tomorrow night.”

This is Ford’s 1st Bristol pole since 2012 (Greg Biffle).

While it may come to a shock to some, Almirola is a really good qualifier at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway. The Florida native now has 6 top 10 starting spots in his last 7 tries here including 2 front row starts in the last 4.

He’ll be joined on the front row by teammate Chase Briscoe (128.193 mph) who was just .022-seocnds behind Almirola for earning his second career pole. This is his first top 10 starting spot in the last 7 races as he enters this weekend 9 points below the cutline.

Alex Bowman starts third in his No. 48 Chevrolet (128.176 mph) for his first top 5 starting spot in 12 Bristol starts. He did qualify 3rd last week in Kansas though. Denny Hamlin was fourth in his No. 11 Toyota (128.159 mph) for his 7th consecutive top 10 starting spot including 4 of the last 6 inside of the top 5. This is just his 2nd top 5 starting spot in the last 7 races on the year though too.

Kyle Larson (127.911 mph) rounded out the top 5 in his No. 5 Chevrolet. He’s had a top 10 starting spot in 7 of the last 8 races including 6 of the 7 in the top 6.

Half (8) of the playoff drivers (16) made the final round of qualifying with them starting 2nd (Briscoe), 3rd (Bowman), 4th (Hamlin), 5th (Larson), 6th (Ryan Blaney), 7th (Kevin Harvick), 8th (Christopher Bell), 9th (Austin Cindric).

The other 8 will start Ross Chastain in 12th, Joey Logano 15th, William Byron 16th, Tyler Reddick 17th, Kyle Busch 21st, Chase Elliott 23rd, Austin Dillon 28th and Daniel Suarez 29th.

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