MARTINSVILLE, Va. – He won’t win a championship this year, but that doesn’t mean Martin Truex Jr. is done winning this season.
Only a few days removed from perhaps one of the worst days of his NASCAR career, Truex Jr. found a bit of redemption Friday. The Furniture Row Racing driver put down a lap of 19.282, 98.206 mph on the .526 mile track halfway through the final round of knockout qualifying to score his 12 career pole, his fifth of the season and his first at Martinsville.
“I’ve been second here a few times,” Truex said. “This place is just so tough and that first pit stall is just so critical to having a shot at winning here. I would love to get my first grandfather clock.”
It was also his second consecutive pole, after his top starting spot the week prior at Talladega Superspeedway. That race however ended badly for Truex as he lost an engine; the DNF also cost Truex his shot at a championship as he was one of four drivers eliminated from the Chase last week.
“After last week, this helps a little bit,” Truex said. “All in all, just proud of the guys for coming here with a game plan and executing.”
Joey Logano, who had won the last three poles at Martinsville came up just short and will start second, Jimmie Johnson third with AJ Allmendinger and Chase Elliott, who was also eliminated from the Chase last week, rounding out the top five.
“So close to getting that fourth pole in a row,” Logano said. It would have been pretty cool to be able to say you did that, but it’s been a great streak.”
The first of the three rounds was led by Logano and featured a spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and a meeting with the wall that forced his team to pull out the back up car.
“I had a lot of wheel-hop,” Stenhouse said. “ It was definitely not ideal in qualifying, but you’re always pressing the issue to try to qualify better and trying to get everything out of the car that you can and it just started wheel-hopping. As a lot of us drivers know, once it starts wheel-hopping it’s hard to save. I down-shifted to try and keep it out of the wall as best I could, but we weren’t able to do that.”
Austin Dillon another driver eliminated from the Chase last week, also spun, but his car suffered only minor damage and he was able to complete the first round, although he too failed to advance to the second round.
Elliott led that second round as three Chase contenders, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, all struggled to break into the top 12 and advance. All three failed; Kenseth will start 17ht Sunday, Harvick 20th, and Kurt Busch 23rd.
Denny Hamlin was on the bubble in the final minutes of the 10 minute second round, but held on to advance to the final round.
Truex put down his pole winning lap with just under three minutes to go in the final five. Logano put is second place lap down shortly after, but despite running extra laps couldn’t improve.
Tony Stewart will start his final Martinsville race is sixth, Carl Edwards, who struggled in the lone practice earlier Friday will roll of seventh followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and defending race winner Jeff Gordon subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounds out the top 10. Kyle Larson and David Ragan were the final two drivers to advance to the final round. The full qualifying results can be found here, the full starting lineup here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will get the green flag Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network starting at 12:30 p.m.