LOUDON, N.H. — Kyle Busch’s run in NASCAR’s playoff opener went from dominant to dud because of mistakes on pit road. Clean up those gaffes, and Busch again just may have the car to the beat.

Busch made it 2 for 2 in playoff poles, turning a lap of 135.049 mph to take the top spot Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He won his eighth pole of the season in the No. 18 Toyota.

“We just need to somehow figure out how to turn these things into good Sundays,” he said. “It would be nice to stay up front all day.”

Busch dominated early in the postseason opener at Chicagoland Speedway and had his 12th stage win of the season. He led 85 laps and was positioned as the driver to beat until his race unraveled in the pits. Busch was forced to pit because of a loose tire, and then his Joe Gibbs Racing crew was penalized when his gas man hopped the wall on pit road too soon.

The back-to-back mistakes were too costly for Busch to recover. He faded to 15th – though he only fell from third to fifth in the standings and is in little danger of missing the cutoff for the second round.

Busch, the 2015 Cup champion, hoped it was just a matter of first-race jitters for his new crew. Joe Gibbs Racing swapped pit crews for Busch with teammate Daniel Saurez’s crew for the final 10 playoff races.

“I’m sure the consensus is that hopefully it’s out of the way and there’s no more jitters,” Busch said. “We can focus on looking forward and having the opportunity to race for the championship with this group of guys and have fast pit stops like they’ve been doing all year long.”

Kyle Larson, who won the pole in July at New Hampshire, joins Busch on the front row. Larson was second in the first Cup race at the track.

Playoff drivers took 13 of the top 14 spots. The 16-driver field is sliced to 12 after next weekend’s race at Dover.

Top 10 spots for other drivers racing for the championship over the final nine races include: Denny Hamlin starting third, Ryan Blaney fourth, Martin Truex Jr. fifth, Kevin Harvick sixth, Kurt Busch seventh, Kasey Kahne ninth and Matt Kenseth 10th.

Jimmie Johnson smacked the wall first and Chase Elliott quickly followed the champion’s miscalculated route when his car slammed into about the same spot. The Hendrick Motorsports drivers traded their Chevrolets for John Deere golf cart rides to the medical center.

Even on routine laps in practice at New Hampshire, the hits kept coming Friday at Hendrick Motorsports.

At first glance, team owner Rick Hendrick’s organization, long the class of NASCAR, has had a nice season with three drivers in NASCAR’s 16-car playoff field.

But Hendrick hasn’t been much of a player this season, winning just four races in a season of major transition behind the scenes and in the car.

Hendrick gave underachieving Kasey Kahne the boot, effective at the end of the season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has trudged through a forgettable final season. Chase Elliott is still winless in his Cup career and his career-best finish last week at Chicagoland was tainted because his team cheated.

Austin Theriault of Fort Kent won the Crosley Brands 150 at Kentucky Speedway to secure the 2017 ARCA title.

The win Friday was the seventh in 19 races this season for Theriault.