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Busch beats teammate for pole in Martinsville

Hamlin will start 2nd
Friday, March 28, 2014

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Kyle Busch
Last week's race winner and last week's absentee combined to sweep the front row for Joe Gibbs Racing in Friday's knockout qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway.

Kyle Busch ran the fastest lap in the round that counted, edging teammate Denny Hamlin for the top starting spot in Sunday’s STP 500 at the venerable 0.526-mile short track.

The Coors Light Pole Award was Busch’s first of the season, his first at Martinsville and the 14th of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. The only driver to run under 19 seconds in the decisive second round (18.998 seconds), Busch posted the top speed of 99.674 mph on his second lap in the session.

Hamlin was a close second at 99.548 mph (19.022 seconds), with first-session leader Joey Logano qualifying third (99.428 mph) and eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson fourth (99.178 mph).

"It feels good," said Busch, last Sunday’s winner at Auto Club Speedway. "To put the (No. 18) M&M’s car on the pole here at Martinsville is something that doesn’t happen very often.

"It certainly is a great day for us. The whole team, [crew chief] Dave Rogers and everybody, they did a great job. We unloaded with a fast car, and we tried to dial it in as best we could with race trim, and then right there at the last second [of practice], we did a qualifying run and that was about all we got.

"The guys did a good job there making some changes to it for the [first-round] qualifying session and getting us a good lap there, and especially the changes we made in-between [rounds] to continue to try to put down fast laps with the tires kind of diminishing there."
Jeff Gordon qualified fifth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer. Under the knockout format introduced this year, the top 12 drivers in the 30-minute first session advanced to the 10-minute pole round.

Busch took advantage of a late caution to grab the lead and win last Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif. Hamlin never started the race, after NASCAR doctors held him out because of impaired vision, the result of what turned out to be a sliver of metal in his eye.

The metal was removed, and Hamlin received clearance to race on Wednesday. He was fastest in Friday’s opening practice and second quickest when it counted.

Even before qualifying, Hamlin felt he had a race-winning car.

"I’m going to win it this weekend — I promise," Hamlin said during a question-and-answer session with media earlier in the day.

The knockout time trials did nothing to change Hamlin’s mind.

"Even going into this weekend, I knew we were going to be really good contenders and be in the mix any way, but I felt like, after running a couple laps of practice, this is a car that’s capable of winning," Hamlin said.

"And I think, really, this year, with tire management being more of factor than it’s ever been, that kind of lends itself to my driving style even more. For that reason, I think we’ll be tough on Sunday."

Brad Keselowski’s streak of consecutive top-12 starts under the knockout qualifying format ended at four, after the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford failed to advance to the second round.

But Logano, Keselowski’s teammate, paced the 12 drivers who made it to the pole round with a track-record lap at 100.201 mph, eclipsing the 99.595 lap Hamlin posted in qualifying for last year’s October Chase race.

Patrick and Stewart sat in the 11th and 12th positions, respectively, as a succession of drivers, including Keselowski and Kevin Harvick, tried in vain to knock them out of the top 12. This is Patrick's best qualifying effort since the 2013 Daytona 500

Starting lineup for STP 500

Pos No. Driver Make Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 99.674 18.998 Leader
2 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 99.548 19.022 --0.024
3 22 Joey Logano Ford Shell Pennzoil 99.428 19.045 --0.047
4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 99.178 19.093 --0.095
5 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Axalta 99.048 19.118 --0.120
6 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota Dollar General 99.048 19.118 --0.120
7 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Code 3 Associates / Mobil 1 98.883 19.150 --0.152
8 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 98.846 19.157 --0.159
9 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 98.625 19.200 --0.202
10 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy/Get Found 98.165 19.290 --0.292
11 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 97.764 19.369 --0.371
12 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-Hour Energy 97.382 19.445 --0.447
13 55 Brian Vickers Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 98.965 19.134 --0.136
14 2 Brad Keselowski Ford Miller Lite 98.929 19.141 --0.143
15 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Bush's Beans 98.888 19.149 --0.151
16 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 98.877 19.151 --0.153
17 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford DeWalt 98.712 19.183 --0.185
18 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 98.707 19.184 --0.186
19 23 Alex Bowman Toyota Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry 98.661 19.193 --0.195
20 43 Aric Almirola Ford STP 98.625 19.200 --0.202
21 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Pittsburgh Paints / Menards 98.610 19.203 --0.205
22 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Haas Automation 98.610 19.203 --0.205
23 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS 98.599 19.205 --0.207
24 34 David Ragan Ford Taco Bell 98.599 19.205 --0.207
25 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet AccuDoc Solutions 98.430 19.238 --0.240
26 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew 98.379 19.248 --0.250
27 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmer's Insurance 98.359 19.252 --0.254
28 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Target 98.333 19.257 --0.259
29 32 Travis Kvapil Ford Keen Parts/SK Tools 98.246 19.274 --0.276
30 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Ford EcoBoost 98.206 19.282 --0.284
31 78 Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet Furniture Row 98.200 19.283 --0.285
32 95 Michael McDowell Ford Triangle Office Equipment 98.002 19.322 --0.324
33 98 Josh Wise Chevrolet Phil Parsons Racing 97.957 19.331 --0.333
34 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet Dow 97.886 19.345 --0.347
35 26 Cole Whitt Toyota Swan Energy 97.820 19.358 --0.360
36 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet CBC Brakleen-Fiberlock 97.759 19.370 --0.372
37 33 David Stremme Chevrolet No. 33 Mace Brands 97.684 19.385 --0.387
38 83 Ryan Truex Toyota Borla Exhaust Toyota Camry 97.598 19.402 --0.404
39 38 David Gilliland Ford Long John Silver's 97.458 19.430 --0.432
40 7 Michael Annett Chevrolet Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet 97.217 19.478 --0.480
41 30 Parker Kligerman Toyota Swan Energy 97.078 19.506 --0.508
42 36 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet TBA 97.053 19.511 --0.513
43 66 Joe Nemechek Toyota Land Castle Title 96.332 19.657 --0.659

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