Joey Logano will start on pole position for today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The Team Penske driver will share the front-row with playoff contender Martin Truex Jr, but he won’t share any of the outside championship pressure, as he is not one of the final eight drivers in the hunt for the title.
Logano’s lap in the final session of qualifying – a 19.622-second lap – was enough to edge out Truex for pole position by just five-thousandths of a second. As is always the case at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway, the lap-times were close all the way down the field, with the first seven cars in the starting line-up all within a tenth of a second of each other.
Today’s pole position is Logano’s first since the race at Phoenix in March. 2017 has been a lacklustre affair for the #22 team. After their sole race victory at Richmond was ruled encumbered, Joey was unable to qualify for the playoffs and hasn’t shown the speed to contend for race victories at all often. A win in today’s race could put both Logano and his crew back on the right track leading up to next season.
“I think the last time we were here Truex got us be a few thousandths, so it’s cool to flip-flop that again,” Logano said after qualifying. “I’ve got something to race with this week. I’m really excited about the race and starting up front is always a big deal here. We may not get the good pit stall that we would want, but starting towards the front is always a nice thing to have. You can set your own pace and kind of take care of your car.”
Truex Jr will line-up alongside Logano on the front row, with Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney making up the second row just behind him. Clint Bowyer put his #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion in fifth as he joins Logano is being a potential spoiler for the playoff contenders around him.
Two more of the eight playoff contenders line-up sixth and seventh respectively. Denny Hamlin enters the race as a potential favourite given his past record at Martinsville Speedway. He’ll line-up a solid sixth ahead of Brad Keselowski in seventh.
Rookie Erik Jones will start eighth for Furniture Row Racing in the #77, with Kyle Larson – who was eliminated from the playoffs last weekend – starting just behind in ninth place for Chip Ganassi Racing. Non-playoff contenders fill out the last three positions in the top twelve that made it to the final round of qualifying. Aric Almirola took tenth in the Richard Petty Motorsports #43, with Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne taking eleventh and twelfth respectively.
Two of the three unaccounted playoff drivers missed out on the final session of qualifying by a small margin. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were just outside of the all-important top twelve and will start from thirteenth and fourteenth. At least neither had as bad of a qualifying session was Jimmie Johnson. The #48 Hendrick Motorsports driver qualified twenty-fourth, but he will start from the rear of the field after having spun into the wall during qualifying and damaging his Chevrolet in process. He will have it all to do in today’s race, but with the most wins at Martinsville of any active driver, he’s the man to do it.
It’s a short turn-around for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field now. Both qualifying and the race are taking place on the same day, so there’s not much time for the drivers to process what happened in qualifying before they’ll be under-way for the First Data 500.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – First Data 500 – qualifying top twelve:
[table id=2649 /]
(P) = Playoff contender