Truex bounces back, secures top starting spot
MARTINSVILLE, VA. — Martin Truex Jr. vowed to win the remaining races this season once he was knocked out of the NASCAR playoffs.
A pole-winning run Friday at Martinsville Speedway was a strong step toward fulfilling that goal.
Truex turned a lap at 98.206 mph to take the top starting spot in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. It was the fifth pole of the season for Truex, who also won the pole last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. A blown engine in his Toyota led to his elimination in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
He said after that that he was determined to win the final four races of the year and took some solace in Friday’s run. Truex has never won at Martinsville. “It hurt a lot this week,” Truex said. “I thought about it every day and every night. I just kept telling myself, ‘Go win Martinsville.’ ”
Joey Logano, winner of three straight poles, qualified second in a Ford. Logano won last week at Talladega to advance to the third round of the Chase, and was disappointed in missing out on the pole even though it’s his fifth consecutive front-row start at Martinsville.
“So close to getting that fourth pole in a row — it would have been pretty cool to be able to say you did that,” Logano said. “It gives us a good start to get a good rhythm into this long race and get our car tuned up to where we want to.
“We’re not in the business of getting poles. We’re in the business of winning races.”
Logano was followed by eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson in a Chevrolet. Johnson is seeking his seventh championship, and has not been in this round of the playoffs since the elimination format was introduced in 2014.
AJ Allmendinger qualified fifth, Chase Elliott was sixth and Tony Stewart seventh, as three drivers not in the Chase had strong runs.
Five of the eight remaining Chase drivers qualified inside the top 12. Joe Gibbs Racing swept spots seven, eight and nine, as Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch put their Toyotas in the top 10. Only Matt Kenseth didn’t advance to the third round of qualifying for JGR.
Jeff Gordon qualified 10th for what is assumed to be his final race. He’s in his eighth and final scheduled race as a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is out with a concussion. Martinsville (Va.) Speedway Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: NBC Sports Network