Truex wins pole de­spite con­fis­cated bolts

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jenna fryer The As­so­ci­ated Press

Martin Truex Jr. showed up at Talladega Su­per­speed­way de­ter­mined to be at the front of the field and in con­trol of his chances in NAS­CAR’s play­offs.

A pole-win­ning run Satur­day put him at the top of the field for the crit­i­cal elim­i­na­tion race.

Truex turned a lap of 193.423 mph to earn the top start­ing spot Sun­day. The run came af­ter NAS­CAR con­fis­cated bolts from his Toy­ota, but Truex said he was not wor­ried about ram­i­fi­ca­tions to his Fur­ni­ture Row Rac­ing team.

“The jack bolt is­sue is re­ally not a big is­sue,” Truex said. “They just took the left front, so it’s not a big is­sue. It was a parts man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sue, no big deal at all.”

Win­ner of two races in the first round of the Chase, Truex is win­less in round two but above the cut­off point. Four driv­ers will be cut from the field on Sun­day.

“All we have to do is make it through to the next one,” he said. “We’ve got some good tracks coming up for us and (Sun­day) is go­ing to be a tough race. A lot is go­ing to hap­pen, but we just have to hope for the best and do the best job we can do.

“I feel good about my car and it’s got a lot of speed in it, ob­vi­ously.”

The in­spec­tion is­sue with Truex pro­vided a lit­tle early drama on qual­i­fy­ing day, as there was some spec­u­la­tion the team could face a penalty. NAS­CAR typ­i­cally is­sues penal­ties in the mid­dle of the week, and a point de­duc­tion could in the­ory knock Truex out of the Chase.

How­ever, NAS­CAR vice pres­i­dent of com­pe­ti­tion Scott Miller said a points penalty is un­likely, and that Truex had no com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. The bolts taken could have been con­sid­ered a safety is­sue, though.

“I would say it would be un­likely but it has to go through our process,” he said. “We don’t typ­i­cally do that on a week­end. Be­cause it is the play­offs, ev­ery­one has a height­ened sense of ev­ery­thing. This is no dif­fer­ent than things we have done all year, and we will treat this one like we do all year long.”

Miller was un­sure if NAS­CAR would ac­cel­er­ate its re­view process to de­ter­mine if a penalty will be is­sued be­fore the race.

“We don’t have any prece­dent for do­ing that,” Miller said. “We will be cir­cling up and try­ing to fig­ure out the best way to pro­ceed from this mo­ment for­ward un­til (Sun­day’s) race.”

Brad Ke­selowski, in nearly a must-win sit­u­a­tion on Sun­day, qual­i­fied sec­ond. He won the knock­out race in 2014 to stave off elim­i­na­tion, and said his best start­ing po­si­tion at Talladega bodes well for him.

“I feel like qual­i­fy­ing well is cer­tainly a very strong omen for Talladega and Day­tona,” he said. “I think all of the races I’ve won here, we’ve had good starts and the races that we haven’t won or been su­per-com­pet­i­tive we usu­ally don’t have any speed in qual­i­fy­ing, so it’s cer­tainly a con­fi­dence-builder.

“It’s not a guar­an­tee by any means, but a con­fi­dence­builder that you carry into this week­end and carry into (the) race.”

Ke­selowski won at Talladega in May and at Day­tona in July.

Matt Kenseth qual­i­fied third and was fol­lowed by Chase El­liott, who is also in a must-win sit­u­a­tion on Sun­day.

Greg Bif­fle and Ricky Sten­house Jr. were fifth and sixth and Roush-Fen­way Rac­ing put three of its cars into the fi­nal round of qual­i­fy­ing as Trevor Bayne was 11th.

Round­ing out the top 12 were Kurt Busch, Denny Ham­lin, Austin Dil­lon, Paul Me­nard and Reed Soren­son was 12th. It was a huge dropoff for Soren­son, who was the fastest car in the first round of qual­i­fy­ing.

Ham­lin is also fac­ing a must-win sit­u­a­tion, and said he prefers that to points rac­ing all day at Talladega.

“I’m ac­tu­ally try­ing to lead ev­ery lap,” he said. “That’s all I can do is try to go out there and lead ev­ery sin­gle lap pos­si­ble and put our­selves in po­si­tion at the end. Def­i­nitely want to be in the lead if we get down to a shootout and try to de­fend from there, so we’ve got our work cut out for us, but it’s noth­ing we haven’t done be­fore.”

Be­fore the first round runs, NAS­CAR made the Joe Gibbs Rac­ing teams of Ham­lin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch ad­just the top of their left-rear quar­ter pan­els. The teams were re­quired to go back through in­spec­tion and Miller said the body of the cars had been ma­nip­u­lated.

“It doesn’t have to be big to be an in­frac­tion,” he said. “It just has to be fair for ev­ery­body and that’s what we strive to do.”

Truex, run­ner-up to Ham­lin in the Day­tona 500, is one of the many driv­ers who doesn’t plan to fade to the back of the field on Sun­day in an ef­fort to avoid po­ten­tial ac­ci­dents. He’s said all week­end he feels more in con­trol of his race if he’s near the front, and the pole po­si­tion puts him right where he wants to be.

“The strat­egy is to stay there, but the prob­lem is that it’s pretty hard to do,” he said. “It’s def­i­nitely the place to be to start the race. This is ob­vi­ously a big race with a lot on the line.”


Martin Truex Jr. poses af­ter win­ning the pole at Talladega Su­per­speed­way on Satur­day.

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