MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Report by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images North America photo —
Three might be Joey Logano’s new lucky number after Friday’s Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying at Martinsville Speedway.
No one was able to knock Logano off the top spot in any of the three rounds as the 25-year-old secured the pole for Sunday’s STP 500 at the .526-mile track.
The Team Penske driver posted the fastest time in every session and held on by .002 seconds in the final round over Kasey Kahne to make it three consecutive poles at the Paper Clip.
“Todd [Gordon] did a really good job with this Shell/Pennzoil Ford,” Logano said. “I get to drive this thing and it’s so much fun every time we come here to Martinsville, especially in qualifying. We have to figure out the race part exactly, we haven’t got the grandfather clock yet, but qualifying is something that Todd and I really wrapped our heads around and really understand what we have to do inside and outside the race car and couldn’t be more proud of these guys. Martinsville is the most important track to start up front, that’s when you have to come here and show what you got and going back into the shop the way they build these cars and just did a great job for us today.”
“This is just a little fire for us to get us going. We’ve had a good season so far, but you always want to break through and get some wins and this pole is going to help with momentum.”
By virtue of winning the pole, Logano gets the No. 1 pit stall for Sunday’s race which has proved to be beneficial for the No. 22 team the last two races there.
“I was re-watching the race last night when I got up here and we came down pit road fourth and we went out first. A lot of it was because we had a great pit stop, but we also had a great pit stall selection, so that really helped us as well.”
Kasey Kahne led the Hendrick Motorsports brigade by qualifying second and almost knock Logano off the pole in the final round. Kahne recorded his best start of the season and has a career-best finish of second at Martinsville, which came to Jeff Gordon in April 2005.
“The car was really fast, the guys did a nice job in practice. In qualifying, I just kept getting better with my laps, we didn’t make any adjustments as I ran. Car was fine, just get my laps a little better. So, we did that.. it was close. Joey just barely got us, but definitely a good starting spot. That was one of my goals today was help out on pit road. Pit road is huge here. We have the best pit crew for stops out of anyone in my opinion, and if I can help them on pit road myself, get a better spot, I think all that will be beneficial on Sunday.”
Martinsville has one of the tightest pit roads on the circuit where cars race side-by-side and squeeze each other to be on the inside line for the restart.
Starting behind Logano and Kahne is the No. 14 car with speedy super-sub Brian Vickers, who turned the fastest lap in Friday’s lone practice session and ran inside the top-three in all three rounds of qualifying. Vickers returns to the seat of the Stewart-Haas Racing machine after a 13th-place showing at Auto Club Speedway two weeks ago.
“It takes a few weeks to get into a rhythm with the team and everyone on this team has done a great job,” Vickersa said. Mike [Bugarewicz] built a good team, Stewart-Haas gave us a great race car and we were happy with it all day. I’m pleased, but not satisfied. We wanted the pole. I felt like when the 22 ran the 51, I thought we could beat that and we made a small adjustment there and it was my call. We just needed a little more, but it’s still a pleasure to put this car in the top-three on behalf of Tony and this whole team.
Vickers shares the second row with Richard Childress Racing driver Paul Menard as RCR teammate Ryan Newman completes the top-five. Menard ran second in round two before settling into fourth once the third session ended.
A.J. Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and rookie Chase Elliott rounded out the top-10. Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars qualified inside the top-10, with Phoenix runner-up Carl Edwards mired back in 25th for Sunday’s race.
“It’s frustrating for me because these JGR Toyotas are so fast and for me to have run 25th is pretty frustrating, but we feel like the car will race well,” Edwards said.
“We ran enough laps to get a view of what race trim will be like. I was just loose in, I get on the brakes and try to get on in there and the rear-end’s just hung out. I’ve done what Trevor’s did here before. I’ve pushed it too hard on entry and it’s really easy to do. That’s we got, now we just have to pass some cars on Sunday.”
Chase Elliott returns to the same track where he made his Sprint Cup debut last spring and starts 10th amidst brake problems after the first round. He and fellow rookie competitor Ryan Blaney (12th) made to the final round.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just missed the cut-off for round three in 13th after a fifth-place finish at Fontana two weeks ago. His Roush-Fenway Racing teammate Trevor Bayne wrecked his primary car in the closing minutes of Friday’s practice and rolls off 32nd on Sunday.
Past Martinsville winners Dale Earnhardt Jr. (21st) and Jimmie Johnson (24th) start mid-pack and have to work their way to the front once the green flag drops Sunday.
The next time the Cup Series takes to the track will be Saturday morning for the first of two practice sessions at 10 a.m. (FS1).
STARTING GRID: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; STP 500; Martinsville Speedway; April 1, 2016
- Joey Logano
- Kasey Kahne
- Brian Vickers
- Paul Menard
- Ryan Newman
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Kyle Busch
- Denny Hamlin
- Matt Kenseth
- Chase Elliott
- Brad Keselowski
- Ryan Blaney
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Greg Biffle
- Jamie McMurray
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Larson
- Casey Mears
- Kevin Harvick
- Aric Almirola
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- David Ragan
- Kurt Buscb
- Jimmie Johnson
- Carl Edwards
- Brian Scott
- Michael McDowell
- Danica Patrick
- Austin Dillon
- Clint Bowyer
- Cole Whitt
- Trevor Bayne
- Landon Cassill
- Regan Smith
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Chris Buescher
- Joey Gase
- Michael Annett
- Josh Wise
- Reed Sorenson