Kyle Busch secured his first Martinsville pole position as Joe Gibbs Racing once again set the pace in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Busch topped the sheets with a time of 18.998 seconds (99.674mph), the only driver of the day to set a lap time under 19 seconds, taking his first Coors Light Pole Award of the 2014 season.
“It feels good to put the M&M’s car on the pole here at Martinsville as its something that doesn’t happen very often,” said Busch. “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 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 qualifying session and getting us a good lap there, and especially the changes we made in-between to continue to try to put down fast laps with the tires kind of diminishing there.”
Joining last week’s race winner on the front row will be JGR team-mate, Denny Hamlin, who missed the Auto Club Speedway race on medical grounds due to impaired vision – which turned out to be a sliver of metal in his eye. Hamlin set a time of 19.022, narrowly missing out on the top spot, while Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson will complete the second row of the grid.
“I’m going to win it this weekend. I promise,” said Hamlin before qualifying, with the result doing nothing to change his 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. 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.”
Logano set the pace in the opening session, posting a new track record of 100.201 mph, but couldn’t beat the might of the Joe Gibbs Toyotas in the top 12 shootout.
Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five, with Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer completing the ten-minute top 12 shootout session.
For the first time since NASCAR adopted the new knockout qualifying format, Brad Keselowski failed to make it into the pole shootout, having to settle for 14th at the end of the 30 minute opening segment.