Bell wins pole, continues good form at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Christopher Bell put four trying weeks of crashes and misfortune behind him Saturday, posting the fastest time in qualifying at Kansas Speedway to earn the pole for the third time in his last five NASCAR Cup Series visits to the track.

Bell turned a lap of 183.107 mph in his No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing, putting it on the front row alongside Ross Chastain for Sunday’s race. Noah Gragson and Kyle Larson will start a row behind them, while Kyle Busch qualified fifth.

“I’m not looking for a race win. I’m literally looking to see a checkered flag,” Bell said with a smile. “My car has great capability. If I can see the checkered flag, we have the possibility of having a great day.”

That checkered flag hasn’t been flying much for Bell lately.

He started the season with a third-place finish in the Daytona 500 and won at Phoenix a few weeks later, and he still had some momentum going at Circuit of the Americas and Richmond. But things began to go awry beginning at Martinsville, when he had some tire issues and finished 35th, and things haven’t gotten a whole lot better since.

He spun out at Texas and finished 17th. He got caught up in a crash at Talladega and was 38th. Last week at Dover, he followed a qualifying spin that left him starting 33rd by crashing in the race, leaving him to finish 34th.

“We’ve all just been in the dumps,” he said. “We have debriefs every Monday and after Martinsville it was like, ‘It’s fine. We’ll get them next week.’ After Texas, we’re like, ‘This sucks. It’s been two in a row. But we’re alright.’ It was bottom-of-the-barrel after Dover. But the good news and the positive out of it is that every time we go to the track, we know our cars are going to be fast, and we have the capability in our team.”

Ty Gibbs will start sixth on Sunday at Kansas. Austin Cindric will be in seventh, Michael McDowell eighth, Chase Elliott ninth and Chase Briscoe — who scrubbed the wall during his final qualifying run — will round out the top 10.

Defending race winner Denny Hamlin failed to advance to the final round and will start 14th. Neither of the cars he co-owns along with Michael Jordan, the No. 45 of Tyler Reddick and the No. 23 of Bubba Wallace, reached the final round, either; Reddick will start right behind in 14th and Wallace will start back in 23rd place.

Corey Heim, driving the No. 43 for another week as Erik Jones continues his recovery from a crash at Talladega, qualified 20th. He’ll start alongside Jimmie Johnson, who is back in the No. 84 for a second consecutive week.

William Byron will start near the back after hitting the wall hard during the first round of qualifying.

“We’ll have a lot of work to do, which I hate,” he said, “but our car is really good. We’re just going to have to pass a lot of cars.”

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