Martin Truex Jr. got a welcome change of performance on Friday.
After his two worst race weekends of the season, Truex rebounded on Friday by winning the pole for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) Richmond.
Truex’s average lap speed of 123.859 mph was set midway through the final round of knockout qualifying and held up with Chase Elliott coming closest to topping him (123.621 mph). Joey Logano was third-fastest (123.581 mph).
Denny Hamlin will line up fourth and last fall’s Richmond winner, Kyle Larson, will start fifth.
Completing the top 12 starters are Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The pole is Truex’s third of the season and 18th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. It’s actually the fourth time this season he will start first, as he also got one rain-out pole earlier this season.
“It’s definitely been a crappy two weeks, but that’s part of racing,” said Truex, who wrecked out of the last two races at Texas and Bristol. “This team, I have confidence in them and everything they are doing. You can’t let these things get you down – it was just circumstances.
“I’m proud of our effort today. We stuck to our plan and it all worked out. Hopefully, we’ll have a good car for tomorrow night.”
Truex, the reigning series champion, has yet to win on a track less than 1-mile in length.
“I feel pretty good about our car,” he said. “We have some good history to go off of here the past couple years. We’ve been really strong.”
Hamlin gained quite a bit in the second round, topping the 10-minute session with an average lap speed of 124.476 mph – at the time the fastest speed on the track on Friday.
Elliott was second-fastest (124.435 mph) and Logano third (124.327 mph). Truex was fourth and McMurray completed the top-five.
Also advancing to the final round were Kurt Busch, Stenhouse, Bowman, Byron, Harvick, Larson and Jones.
Ryan Blaney just missed the Top 12 by three one-hundredths of a second and will line up 13th.
Also failing to advance to the final round were Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Hemric, who is making his series debut this weekend.
“We over adjusted a little bit there,” Bowyer said. “We were really good on our first round. We put a little wedge in it and we probably should have just left it alone. We just went a little bit too far.”
Wallace said he had difficulty on his second round attempt as well.
“Lost a lot of time there,” he said over his team radio. “I couldn’t lay the power down. We’ll start 18th and go to work on it on Saturday night.”
Truex led the way in what turned out to be a very surprising first round of knockout qualifying.
Truex’s average lap speed was 124.127 mph followed by Byron (123.893 mph) and Johnson (123.813 mph). Hamlin was fourth and Bowyer completed the top-five.
Among those who failed to advance to Round 2 were Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez and Kasey Kahne.
“We didn’t make a mock (qualifying) run in practice,” said Busch, who ended up 32nd fastest. “We only ran two laps (in our qualifying attempt) to preserve our tires for the later rounds.
“A lot of guys ran three laps and obviously we could have used that third lap. We’ll just have to come from way far back (Saturday night).”
Busch has won the last two races and looking to match his career-best winning streak with a third consecutive win in the Toyota Owners 400.
As the first round of qualifying got underway, several cars had not yet cleared inspection including Johnson, Erik Jones, Suarez, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon.
With seven minutes remaining in the 15-minute session, all cars had cleared inspection and made it on the track.
|1||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||21.799||123.859|
|12||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||22.059||0.260||122.399|
|18||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||21.991||0.192||122.777|