David Ragan feels like he is taking the right steps to get up to par with his Roush Fenway teammates. Now he has his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole.
Ragan earned his first pole in 153 career races with a lap of 189.820 mph Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. He easily took the top spot from teammate Carl Edwards (188.521 mph), who will start on the front row with him.
"We were so close. That is cool for David though," Edwards said. "If we had to be second to anyone in qualifying David would be the guy. Those guys have been working really hard."
It is the third time in the last four races that Ragan is starting in the top six. The only race in that stretch he didn't start that high was last week at Martinsville, where he started 14th and then went on to a season-best eighth-place finish.
"I think the three guys that are on our team are the three best drivers in the garage. It puts pressure on us to go and run fast," Ragan said. "It's good to have come out of the box with some good runs, some good qualifying runs, a couple of good races. So we've just got to continue to get better and concentrate week to week."
Roush drivers Matt Kenseth (fourth) and Greg Biffle (ninth) are also starting in the top 10.
Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch qualified 11th and Kevin Harvick, coming to Texas off consecutive wins, starts 29th.
"I'd certainly like to think so no matter where we end up in qualifying I think our race car's a lot better," Busch said.
Busch has won five Nationwide Series races and two Trucks Series races at Texas, but is 0 for 12 in Sprint Cup racing in the Lone Star State.
Denny Hamlin, who swept both races in Texas last year, starts 23rd. Hamlin will try to match Edwards, the only driver with three Sprint Cup wins at Texas.
Ragan won a Nationwide pole at Texas in 2007, but his best previous Sprint Cup start at any track had been fourth for four races, including Texas two years ago. He has finished third three times.
"Qualifying is just part of the weekend, like practice is. Pit stops are part of the weekend, being competitive on restarts is a part. We've got to put all those parts together," Ragan said. "We've taken necessary steps to get better. ... Those steps are part of the process of becoming a race winner, a team like Carl."
Edwards again wins Nationwide at TMS
Edwards knew Busch was charging hard. What he almost didn't see was the car that would change the Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Edwards and Busch were running 1-2 on lap 88 when Tim Schendel's car blew a right front tire and shot up the track, basically splitting the front-runners. He barely scraped the back of Edwards' car, but was right in front of Busch, who had nowhere to go and hit him full force.
"Just sheer luck of timing, the car ended up missing us and caught him instead," Edwards said. "Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw that car turn. ... I'm glad that I caught it. A split second later, it would have been over."
Edwards went on to lead 169 of 200 laps and win his second consecutive Nationwide race at the 1½-mile, high-banked track. It was his 30th Nationwide victory, the 15th NASCAR victory for car owner Jack Roush at Texas, and the first NASCAR win for a Ford Mustang.
The polesitter never dropped below third place and won by 0.482 seconds over Brad Keselowski.
Schendel was nine laps down and last among the 35 cars still running when he took out Busch, who had won the last two Nationwide races this season, and three of the last four.
"It didn't happen that fast, but there was no time to react. You can't just stomp on the brakes and turn left, you're already maxed out with your tires," Busch said. "It's real unfortunate, these guys did a great job working all weekend to get the car capable of running with Carl there. ... It's going to go down as a wreck, but I felt like we were fast enough to win."
Before being the runner-up behind Edwards last fall, Busch had won five consecutive Nationwide races at the 1½-mile, high-banked track. This was the first time in his 13 Nationwide starts at Texas that he didn't finish, and had been out of the top seven only once before.
Had that not happened, Edwards figured it would have been another exciting race between the two to the checkered flag. He would have preferred that.
"He would have been a really, really tough challenge," said Edwards, who twice already this season has finished second to Busch. "We were well-matched, and thought we'd run real hard. He was right behind me."
With Busch out, Edward mostly dominated.
Keselowski took the lead from Edwards on the lap 94, the restart after the accident that took out Busch. That lasted only 16 laps before Edwards went back ahead until going into the pits with a nearly 11-second lead with 20 laps to go.
Edwards led more laps Friday night than he had in his previous 12 Nationwide starts in Texas, when he led only 70 laps. That includes 59 laps last November. He was the runner-up to Busch in the 2008 fall race.
Busch has led a staggering 1,187 laps in Texas.
"I felt like there was an opportunity for us to win. I'm not going to say we were the winning car, Carl is definitely the winning car. We were making ground on him to where we could get there and at least run with him," Busch said. "We probably could have put on a really good show with the fans out here in Texas."
Paul Menard finished third, with Joey Logano and Elliott Sadler rounding out the top five.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was eighth, maintaining the Nationwide points lead over Jason Leffler, who was 15th.