Sports

Kyle Busch wins playoff pole at Chicagoland Speedway

JOLIET, Ill. — Kyle Busch raced to the top spot at Chicagoland.

But Brad Keselowski was the driver pegged as the No. 1 target by the rest of the Cup field.

Keselowski shook up a lazy Friday at Chicagoland Speedway with a tweet that accused NASCAR of letting Toyota get ahead of the rest of the manufacturers.

NASCAR should have been buzzing about the start of its 10-race playoff to crown a champion.

Instead, it was 140 characters and verbal jabs that stole the show. Busch opened his bid for a second NASCAR Cup championship with a lap of 187.963 mph to win the pole Friday night at Chicagoland.

"I'm way behind in payback, just FYI," Busch said. "He's way ahead. If anybody's going to be getting it, it's going to be him."

Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin will start on the front row and fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. was third. Truex has four wins and the Furniture Row Racing driver is a favourite to win his first career Cup title.

"I'd like to know what Toyota's paying Brad, because he's been our best spokesman," Hamlin said.

NASCAR playoff drivers Kevin Harvick, Keselowski and Kyle Larson had the next three spots.

Keselowski said this week Fords didn't have the speed needed to win the championship and suggested the championship finale would be comprised of four Toyota drivers.

"Winning counts and sometimes you have to catch a little bit of luck. That happens. The fastest car doesn't always win. That has been the case a few times with late yellows and so forth," Keselowski said Friday. "Winning races is more than one thing, it always has been and always will be. You always like to be close but right now we aren't close."

Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, considers himself a bit of a spokesman at times for the sport given his tenure and accomplishments. He's locked in to a long-term deal with Penske and Ford and has rarely backed down from speaking on the state of the industry.

"I am not looking over my shoulder worrying about getting a ride with another manufacturer one day and that gives me some privileges that maybe some other guys don't have," he said.

Busch and Keselowski have long been rivals and tangled on and off the track.

"If you ask Brad, he can fix the world's problems," Busch said.

Top 10 spots for other drivers racing for the championship over the final 10 races include: Chase Elliott eighth, Austin Dillon ninth, and Matt Kenseth 10th.

Ryan Blaney is 12th, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson starts 14th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 15th, Ryan Newman 16th, Kurt Busch 17th, Jamie McMurray 19th and Kasey Kahne 25th.

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