McDowell Snags First Cup Pole In Atlanta


Michael McDowell with the Busch Light Pole Award at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Jacob Seelman photo)

HAMPTON, Ga. – One week after getting nipped in Daytona 500 qualifying by Joey Logano, Michael McDowell got a measure of payback at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

McDowell bested Logano to earn the Busch Light Pole Award Saturday in advance of the Ambetter Health 400 at the 1.54-mile quad-oval, posting a lap of 30.999 seconds (178.844 mph) in the final round with his No. 34 Benebone Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

It marked the 2021 Daytona 500 winner’s first career NASCAR Cup Series pole and the first pole for Front Row Motorsports in a decade, dating back to July of 2014 with David Gilliland.

“I don’t think it’s too much of a coincidence,” McDowell said of sitting on the front row again. “With both qualifying sessions being a superspeedway package, we knew that we’d come here and have speed. I don’t think [winning the pole] is necessarily a surprise, but it’s really, really cool.”

Logano will join McDowell on the front row for the second straight week, this time qualifying second with a time of 31.072 seconds (178.424 mph) in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Team Penske.

Kyle Busch will start third in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, with McDowell’s teammate Todd Gilliland timing fourth fastest in the second Front Row Motorsports entry.

Kyle Larson will start fifth, followed by Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Dillon among the 10 drivers who advanced through both rounds of knockout qualifying.

Daytona 500 winner William Byron was the first driver who failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying, missing the transfer by .002 of a second.

Byron will start 11th in the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 after a lap of 31.348 seconds (176.853 mph).

Other notables starting deeper in the Cup Series field include Martin Truex Jr. (12th), who was the fastest Toyota driver in qualifying, as well as Alex Bowman (17th), Christopher Bell (22nd), Brad Keselowski (24th), home-state favorite Chase Elliott (28th), and Corey LaJoie (32nd), who nearly won last March.

Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones was the slowest qualifier in the field and will start 37th.

The Ambetter Health 400 for the NASCAR Cup Series is slated for a 3 p.m. ET green flag Sunday, with live coverage on FOX, the Performance Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.