Larson, Truex take top 2 spots in Michigan qualifying

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. are neck and neck at the top of the NASCAR Cup Series standings.

Now, they're set to start at the front for this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway.

Larson won the pole Friday and Truex qualified second, another impressive showing for the duo that's been so consistently strong this season. Truex is first in the standings, one point ahead of Larson. Everyone else is over 100 points behind.

Larson also had the fastest car in practice Friday, and he won at this track last August after finishing third in June.

''Hopefully, we can keep it going,'' he said. ''So far it's been a really good weekend leading in practice and then getting the quick time here.''

Larson won his second pole of the season and third of his career. This will be his fourth chance to start from the pole this year, but two of them came when qualifying was called off because of the weather.

Larson posted a lap of 202.156 mph in his No. 42 Chevrolet.

Truex is first in the points standings despite being without a pole this year. He started second in the past two races at Pocono and Dover, and earlier in the season at Las Vegas.

''We've got to figure out how to go from second to first,'' Truex said. ''Really all year long, I think we've had a really good qualifying average. Guys have done a really good job on Fridays.''

Clint Bowyer was third in qualifying, followed by Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney, last week's winner .

The victory by Larson at Michigan last year was his first on NASCAR's top circuit. He added another this season at Fontana and has six top-five finishes in 2017.

''I think I've probably grown a little bit as a driver. I feel like our race team has gotten even better. Our race cars have been a lot faster,'' Larson said. ''They were pretty fast leading up to Michigan last year, but I feel like since Michigan when we got that win we have just continued to make them better and had a great offseason - and started the year off really good. I think we have just kind of continued to gel and continued to build on what we currently have and it has been showing on Sundays a lot.''

Other noteworthy developments at MIS:

HIGH SPEEDS

Drivers routinely exceed 200 mph at MIS, and Larson didn't come close to Jeff Gordon's track qualifying record of 206.558, set in 2014. Larson said the ride at those high speeds is reasonably comfortable at MIS.

''Here, you know you're going fast, but I get more of a sensation at, say, Dover or Bristol on going fast, just because it's bumpy, the straightaways are narrow,'' he said. ''Here, the straightaways are smooth, wide, and you're not bouncing around a lot.''

ENCOURAGED

Busch won at MIS in 2011 but hasn't started higher than sixth at this track since 2009. Now he's fourth after qualifying.

''This is a decent starting spot for us for Sunday and Michigan is not one of our best tracks or favorite tracks, but we try to get it better here each and every time and right now I feel pretty good about it,'' Busch said. ''Just missed the balance a little bit there in that final round. It was just a little too free, a little too tight - just different areas of the race track - so we've got to fine-tune that balance.''

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More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org .

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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