JOLIET, Ill. — Qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway was canceled because of rain Friday for the third consecutive year.
The lineup for Sunday’s 400-mile race will be based on the playoff seeding, putting Kyle Busch on the pole with Brad Keselowski joining him on the front row.
Denny Hamlin will start third, followed by Kevin Harvick, Cal Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. The 16 drivers who qualified for the 10-race playoff will all start at the front of the field.
Busch is seeking his second straight Sprint Cup title. He’ll need to get past two elimination rounds to get into the group of four drivers eligible going into the last race Nov. 20 at Homestead.
“We kind of look at this round as don’t make any mistakes,” Busch said. “Just kind of keep preparing yourself, keep getting ready for how the pressure will continue to rise.”
Rain started falling at midday and wiped out the only Sprint Cup practice scheduled at the 1.5-mile asphalt oval before the evening qualifying. The weather later cleared and an hour Sprint Cup practice was added around dusk.
Jimmie Johnson, who will start eighth Sunday, was the fastest in that session, followed by Edwards and Denny Hamlin.
Johnson has never won at Chicagoland and hasn’t made it out of the second round in the two years of the elimination format.
“There’s a lot of optimism and a lot of great things happening,” Johnson said. “We just need to deliver consistently and execute at the track.”
Alex Bowman, filling in for Dale Earnhardt as he recovers from a concussion, spun out in the closing seconds of practice trying to get onto pit road. He didn’t appear to damage his car.
Regan Smith, who will start 33rd based on the standings, left the track to return home after his wife went into labor. Ty Dillon filled in during the practice session, but it’s possible Smith will return for Sunday’s race.
“Big thanks to everybody who helped me back and those who offered,” Smith tweeted after landing in North Carolina.
With only 40 cars entered, none were eliminated without a qualifying session. The teams are scheduled for a final practice Saturday before the 267-lap race.