TALLADEGA, Ala. — Kurt Busch led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep to put all four of the company cars up front at Talladega Superspeedway for a critical playoff race.

Busch turned a lap at 195.804 mph to qualify in the top spot for Sunday's race. He edged teammate Clint Bowyer, who qualified second, ahead of Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola as the Ford horsepower built by Doug Yates' engine shop proved superior in qualifying.

"Four Stewart-Haas Racing Fords up front, I'm just happy I had the fastest one," said Busch, who won his first career pole at either Daytona or Talladega, the two biggest and fastest tracks in NASCAR.

All four SHR drivers are still part of the 12-driver championship field, which will be trimmed by four following next weekend's race at Kansas. Almirola and Bowyer are tied for ninth on the playoff grid, barely holding on to transfer positions.

"I've got to beat and differentiate and separate myself from my teammate, Aric, we're both 10 points out," Bowyer said. "I've got to capitalize on that somehow and close that gap here."

Hendrick Motorsports had the next fastest fleet as the Chevrolets from Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman and William Byron qualified in slots five through eight.

"All four guys in the top 12 is a strong showing for us," Byron said. "Qualifying doesn't reflect totally on how things will shake out Sunday and how you are going to race. But it should be fine. With the four of us together at the start, we have an opportunity to stay in front of some of the possible situations."

The Toyota group followed as Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin qualified ninth and 10th, followed by reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr.

"We certainly qualified better that we expected to," said Kyle Busch. "The guys that qualified good are the ones you would expect to."

The remaining four playoff drivers were Brad Keselowski (18th), Ryan Blaney (19th), Joey Logano (20th) and Kyle Larson (34th).

Fast cars: Talladega had an "enhanced weekend" in which Cup cars were on track two days instead of three, with just one practice session prior to Sunday's race. It was a fast session, too, as Harvick led 23 other drivers to speeds over 200 mph. Harvick topped the practice board at 204.227 mph.

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