Busch is now third in the playoff standings, two points ahead of defending series champion Logano in fourth and 22 points better than Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in fifth, the first driver below the cut line for the Championship 4.
After analyzing practice and qualifying this weekend at Phoenix, here are two driver matchups I'm betting for the Bluegreen Vacations 500.
The pole is the 32nd of Busch's NASCAR Cup Series career but first since last October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. "I feel like we were in a good position to run solid". We fight hard each and every week to figure out what we need to do to continue to improve, and a lot of other guys have certainly done that over the year. The schedule is all different with all practice all in one day and then just qualifying today. "This is a very important race and very important with track position and such, so hopefully it's good for tomorrow".
Reminded his closest competitor in the playoff standings, Logano, will start alongside him, Busch was asked his approach in keeping tabs on the No. 22 Ford. "We improved our auto a lot from that and hopefully we can keep him behind us and not have to allow him to pass us and keep the track position that we need to keep".
Playoff drivers claimed the top seven positions while the final playoff driver, Blaney, was 10th.
Starting alongside Busch will be the driver who is two points behind him on the playoff grid, Joey Logano (P), who qualified second at 139.752 miles per hour. Martin Truex Jr. was fourth-fastest and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch was eighth at 138.910 miles per hour, and Erik Jones was ninth at 138.862 miles per hour. Each team will also lose 15 minutes of practice next weekend in Miami.