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Qualifying report
NASCAR Cup Martinsville

Chase Elliott rockets to NASCAR Cup pole in Martinsville

Chase Elliott backed up his performance in practice and rocketed to the pole for Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Elliott had posted the fastest average lap speed in Friday’s practice session but was only fourth-fastest in his group in Round 1 in qualifying.

The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team pulled no punches in Round 2, going out late and turning a lap at 96.151 mph – the fastest by any driver on Friday.

The pole is the first of the 2022 season for Elliott, who leads the series standings but remains the only HMS driver without a year so far this year. It’s also the 10th pole of his career.

“When they (told me the time) I thought someone could get there to it. It honestly surprised me that it was that fast,” Elliott said. “I thought I had a good lap but not a great lap.

“It’s nice to grab a pole – it’s been a while. Super-proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our team for continuing to push and come back this weekend strong. Hopefully, we can get the car right for tomorrow night.

“The bigger thing than the starting spot itself is the pit selection and having that first pit stall. It’s a big deal and it lends itself to gaining you a lot of spots on pit road.”

Aric Almirola ended up second-fastest with a lap at 95.641 mph and Cole Custer was third at 95.598 mph). Chris Buescher and William Byron rounded out the top-five.

Completing the top-10 starters in Saturday night’s race are Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Todd Gilliland.

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Group B

Custer was the surprising fastest in Group B with an average lap speed of 96.005 – the fastest lap of the day at the time.

Gilliland ended up second (95.961 mph) and Keselowski was third (95.932 mph). Elliott and Buescher rounded out the top-five and advanced to Round 2.

Among those failing to advance to the final round were all three team Penske drivers – Joey Logano, Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney as well as Martin Truex Jr., who has won three of last five Martinsville races.

Group A

Harvick went out late and shot to the top of the speed chart with an average lap seed of 95.743 mph to lead the first group.

Larson – who ran only one lap – ended up second (95.530 mph) and Byron was third (95.468 mph). Almirola and Bell completed the top-five and advanced to Round 2.

Among those failing to advance to the final round were Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch and Tyler Reddick.

The No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet of A.J. Allmendinger failed pre-qualifying inspection three times. As a result, team engineer Michael Brookes was ejected from the track and Allmendinger was not permitted to qualify.

The No. 16 will also have to serve a pass-through penalty after taking the green flag in Saturday night’s race.

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