Joey Logano earns Busch Pole Award at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — With surgical efficiency, Joey Logano continued his domination of knockout qualifying at Martinsville Speedway.
Saving his car and his tires for the final round of Saturday‘s time trials at the .526-mile short track, Logano won the pole for Sunday‘s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with a lap at 97.830 mph (19.356 seconds). (The results of Logano’s pole win were confirmed when the No. 22 passed Sunday morning inspection.)
Driving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Logano edged Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driver Aric Almirola (97.643 mph) for the top starting spot by .037 seconds. Brad Keselowski (97.458 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (97.382 mph), as Ford drivers captured the top four positions on the grid.
The Busch Pole Award was Logano‘s first of the season, his fifth at Martinsville and the 21st of his career. Logano ran only three laps total in the first two rounds, allowing him to save his tires for a four-lap run in the final round. His last lap was his fastest.
“It‘s awesome to get another pole and hopefully we can top it off with another win,” said Logano, who used a victory in last year‘s Playoff race at Martinsville as a springboard to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. “This is a fun race. I always look forward to coming up here.”
Logano has earned his five of the last seven contested poles at Martinsville over a nine-race span, with two of the qualifying sessions canceled because of adverse weather.
All told, Fords claimed six of the top 12 starting positions, including Team Penske drivers Logano and Keselowski and all four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers — Almirola, Harvick, Daniel Suarez (ninth) and Clint Bowyer (10th). In contrast to Logano‘s economical runs, Bowyer had 16 laps on his tires at the end of the final round.
Five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin paced the first two rounds but had to settle for fifth when the starting order for the top 12 drivers was decided. Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. (eighth) were the only Toyota drivers to make the final round.
William Byron was sixth fastest in the money round, but his car failed pre-race inspection, his time disallowed, and he will start 34th instead. That moved Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Kyle Larson up to sixth as the top Chevrolet ahead of Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott (seventh) and Jimmie Johnson (11th), who leads active drivers with nine victories at the paperclip-shaped track.
Trying for his third straight Cup win on Sunday — not to mention a weekend sweep of the Martinsville races — Saturday‘s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victor Kyle Busch will start 13th in the STP 500.
“Too loose — just didn‘t have it with track conditions today,” said Busch, who opted not to make a mock qualifying run during practice.