Martin Truex Jr. leads the way in qualifying, winning pole at Pocono

Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 29, 2016 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 29, 2016 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr. was a little late to the party, but that didn’t matter. Truex led all three qualifying rounds Friday including the final five minutes, where the Furniture Row Racing driver put down a lap of 50.211seconds, 179.244 to win his first career pole at Pocono Raceway and the 10th of his career.

“It’s exciting for us you know anytime you win anything in this series it’s a big deal<” Truex said. “Getting a pole today is awesome. We had a game plan coming here that we felt like we needed to qualify well to have a shot at winning on Sunday and we were able to do so today was a success.”

Truex missed the start of the first 20-minute qualifying session as he was stuck in NASCAR inspection, but made it out in time to post the fastest lap in the first round with just over six minutes left.  Truex wasn’t the only late arrival. In fact, NASCAR had to delay the start of qualifying after issues with its laser inspection system (LIS) earlier in the day. Officials thought they could make up the time, but as qualifying neared, many cars were still being inspected and NASCAR delayed the start of qualifying by 20 minutes.  Truex said the wait wasn’t frustrating.

“I think it depends on the timing,” Truex said. “For me, I don’t really care. When it’s ready I’ll get in it and go. We have a 20 minute session – as long as it’s close. If you’re getting halfway through session one and there’s 10 minutes left and you’re not ready to get in yet yeah, you’re going to start getting nervous. But, I think with the time that we have in round one as long as you can get out there sometime in the first 10 minutes I think I’d be okay with that. I didn’t really get too nervous but I can see where some guys get frustrated but it doesn’t seem to bother me much.”

Kyle Busch was the last driver to pass inspection and joined the group with just under 10 minutes to go. He was able to advance to the second round, unlike Greg Biffle who due to a crew miscue was bumped out as time expired.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a car this fast and now we don’t even make the second round, so it looks pretty foolish on our part,” said Biffle.  “I didn’t run a fast enough first lap, and it cooled off a huge amount so some of those guys were able to beat us on their third run.  It was just a miscue on our part, but we’ve got a great car so we’ll be coming from 25th when the green drops.”

Carl Edwards led the Joe Gibbs Racing contingent in the final round and will start second, followed by Paul Menard who led the lone practice session earlier in the day with new crew chief Danny Stockman.

“The car has been good since we unloaded and Danny spent a lot of time in the shop this week,” Menard said. “And he’s never been on a Cup team before, so he’s been working with the guys and trying to get everything sorted out with the car for this weekend. This is a new style car that RCR debuted last week at Indy, and everybody at RCR worked out a lot of bugs with it and I think we’ve got it tuned up right now.”

Denny Hamlin will start fourth followed by Ryan Newman rounding out the top five. Tony Stewart in his final start as a full time Cup driver at Pocono will roll off sixth, Brad Keselowski will start seventh followed by rookie Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. Kyle Larson will start 11th with Austin Dillon 12th as the last two car to advance to the final round. The full lineup can be found here.

Notable were Jeff Gordon subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and who made it into the second round but could not advance and will start 24th.  Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were other big names who failed to advance.  After his delay in inspection, Kyle Busch made it easily into the second round but could not advance and will start 16th Sunday next to brother Kurt who secured 15th.

“We just got LIS’ed today so the guys will press control alt delete on that tonight I’m sure,” Kyle said. “We’ll put everything back together the way it was before going through qualifying and we’ll be fine tomorrow and we’ll have speed to race.”

Truex won the June race here last year. The team brought the same car to Pocono they dominated with at Charlotte in May leading 392 of the 400 laps for the win.

“Yeah, it is and maybe it has a little magic in it,” Truex said smiling. “We’ll find out come Sunday I suppose if we can lead almost every lap. We’ll see what happens.”

With 40 entries for the 10-car field, no one was sent home Friday. The Pennsylvania 400 will get the green flag just after 1:30 p.m. Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 1:00 p.m. ET.

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