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Busch wins 3rd straight pole

CONCORD, N.C. — Kyle Busch races beyond his years. He’s more superstitious than a lot of 23-year-olds, too.

The hottest driver in the Sprint Cup declined a $50 bill from outgoing Lowe’s Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler on Thursday, then continued his qualifying dominance at the track to earn the pole for the Coca-Cola 600.

Busch laughed off the offer from Wheeler, who was patrolling pit road a day after announcing he’ll retire after 33 years at the track. Busch’s then turned in a lap of 185.433 mph in his No. 18 Toyota to edge out last week’s All-Star race winner Kasey Kahne (185.300), who will join him on the front row Sunday for NASCAR’s longest race.

“He took a fifty out of his pocket and then he was signing it,” Busch said of Wheeler. “I said, ’I don’t want that.’ He gave it to one my crew guys and I said, ’Don’t take that.’ So I put it back in his pocket.”

Brian Vickers qualified third, giving Toyota two of the top three spots. Greg Biffle will start fourth, followed by David Ragan and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Busch started from the pole in last week’s All-Star race and dominated early before bowing out with engine trouble. Busch also started from the pole for last week’s Craftsman Truck Series race. He led the most laps, but was involved in a wreck and finished 13th.

Busch will be the favorite to win his fourth Sprint Cup race of the season on Sunday. He has seven top-five finishes in 11 races and holds a 79-point lead over Jeff Burton in the season standings.

“I hope it doesn’t wear off. I hope I’m not just here for this year and then I’m done and all washed up at 24 years old,” Busch said. “That would be pretty bad, wouldn’t it? We just got to keep going, keep working hard.”

Busch told reporters two hours before qualifying that he didn’t have a car capable of the pole. But after his crew worked on it, Busch went out 22nd out of 48 cars, running a clean lap to overtake Kahne.

“We had a good lap for what we had in practice,” Kahne said. “It felt good. I knew Kyle and Brian would come close. We’re just looking forward to Sunday’s race. We’ll have a lot of time Saturday to work on the car, but I think we’ll have something Sunday.”

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