Aric Almirola leads Ford sweep in qualifying at Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Aric Almirola has led a Ford sweep in NASCAR Cup qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Almirola turned a lap at 181.472 mph Friday to take the top qualifying spot for Sunday’s race. He was followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Clint Bowyer, Almirola’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Ford was the heavy favorite to win last week’s Daytona 500 but was locked out of even a podium finish as Toyotas took all three of the spots.

Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin qualified fourth, and Kyle Larson was the highest Chevrolet driver at seventh.

It was a strong qualifying session for SHR, which got Almirola only the second pole of his career and first since 2012. Three of its four cars qualified in in the top-five but Kevin Harvick, the defending race winner, battled steering problems and qualified 18th.