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Qualifying report

NASCAR Cup Watkins Glen: Elliott takes pole, Raikkonen 27th

Chase Elliott claimed pole position for the penultimate round of the regular NASCAR Cup Series season at Watkins Glen, as 2007 Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 27th.

Watch: Elliott says ‘the pace is high’ for Next Gen at Watkins Glen

Elliott posted the fastest time with a 1m10.477s lap to beat Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet team-mate and defending Cup champion Kyle Larson to the top spot.

The pole is the third of the 2022 season for Elliott, who claimed back-to-back wins at the track in 2018 and 2019 and finished second in last year's race on its return to the calendar.

“My car has been solid, I felt like we had some work to do there from where we were in practice,” Elliott said.

“I felt like there was a couple parts of the track I wanted to put together better.

“It’s just so fast. The pace is just so high here with this car I feel like from what I remember and how much throttle you’re carrying.

“A little bit carries with you a long ways. I’m really proud of my team.”

Michael McDowell qualified third in the Front Row Motorsports Ford, while William Byron made it three Hendrick drivers in the top four ahead of Road America winner Tyler Reddick's Richard Childress Chevrolet.

Road course specialist A.J. Allmendinger in the Kaulig Chevrolet, Chris Buescher's RFK Ford, Austin Cindric in the second RCR Chevrolet, Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse Chevrolet) and Kyle Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota completed the top 10.

On his first competition appearance since last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Raikkonen qualified 27th for his first career Cup series start, driving a third Trackhouse entry as part of the team's Project 91 initiative to attract international drivers to NASCAR.

Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing Team

Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing Team

Photo by: Jasen Vinlove / NKP / Motorsport Images

The Finn, who has one Xfinity Series start and one Truck Series race under his belt from 2011 with Kyle Busch Motorsports during his sabbatical from F1, set the 13th-fastest time of his qualifying group with a 1m11.824s lap.

Only the fastest five drivers in each group progress to a top 10 pole shootout, but Raikkonen still outpaced several Cup regulars in his session including GMS Petty Motorsports driver Ty Dillon, Harrison Burton's Wood Brothers Ford and Stewart-Haas Racing pair Cole Custer and Aric Almirola.

“I wish there had been more laps,” said Raikkonen, who completed a test last week at VIRginia International Raceway to get acquainted with the Camaro.

“It just felt like there is a lot of potential, but you know, I’m not sure which line to take and just not enough laps to put everything together.”

Fellow ex-F1 racer Daniil Kvyat was 18th-fastest in the other qualifying group, the ex-Toro Rosso, Red Bull and AlphaTauri driver setting a best time of 1m13.129s on his second outing in the Team Hezeberg Toyota.

That put him half a second adrift of 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Mike Rockenfeller, who is also making his Cup debut and posted a 1m12.583s in his Spire Motorsport Chevrolet.

Kvyat will start 36th, three places behind Rockenfeller.

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