Kyle Busch to start from Martinsville pole

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Sports -

Kyle Busch’s road to the cham­pi­onship round was made a lit­tle bit eas­ier when he won the pole at Martinsville (Va.) Speed­way.

Busch turned a lap at 96.254 mph around the Vir­ginia pa­per­clip to earn the top start­ing spot in Sun­day’s race, the first of the third round of NASCAR’s play­offs. Eight driv­ers re­main el­i­gi­ble for the ti­tle, but only four will ad­vance to the sea­son fi­nale shootout.

A win in any of the three races in this round of the play­offs earns a driver an au­to­matic berth.

Busch won Martinsville last year to earn a spot at Homestead-Mi­ami Speed­way, and he’s been so good all year as a mem­ber of NASCAR’s so-called “Big 3” that ad­vanc­ing to the fi­nale is al­most a given. He said Satur­day af­ter qual­i­fy­ing that the pres­sure has been amped con­sid­er­ably.

“Any­time you’re un­der pres­sure or un­der the amount of stress as what this round is to get your­self into the fi­nal four for Homestead, any­time you can kind of take a step back and have a clear head is a good time,” Busch said. “The pres­sure that sets in over these next two weeks if you’re be­hind the cut­off line … that can cer­tainly wear on your dur­ing the week. You try to have other things to do to kind of take your mind off of it a lit­tle bit. This is what we live, eat, breath, sleep, ev­ery­thing. It’s al­ways on our mind.”

STEW­ART-HAAS AIM­ING TO DOM­I­NATE ROUND OF 8

Tony Stew­art pas­sion­ately be­lieved in Aric Almirola when oth­ers dis­missed the race­car driver as a jour­ney­man with noth­ing more to of­fer than the back­ing of a ba­con com­pany spon­sor.

Stew­art had a chance to re­place Dan­ica Pa­trick in one of the four Ste­wartHaas en­tries – the weak­est of the teams, sta­tis­ti­cally – and Almirola was his guy. It merely helped that Almirola had Smithfield, a pork com­pany that not only wanted to win NASCAR races but wanted to do it with him, was a cov­eted spon­sor through­out the en­tire garage.

But Stew­art wanted him for rea­sons be­yond the fi­nan­cial back­ing. He’d first en­coun­tered Almirola at least a decade ear­lier, when Stew­art was a cham­pion driver at Joe Gibbs Rac­ing and Almirola was touted as a fu­ture star. Almirola got bounced around the sys­tem, wound up at Richard Petty Mo­tor­sports and was mak­ing a liv­ing but not win­ning races.

The No. 10 car at SHR should have been as com­pet­i­tive as the oth­ers, Stew­art be­lieved, and with Pa­trick out it opened the door for Almirola to get out of mid-level equip­ment and show he had the tal­ent to run with NASCAR’s elite.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.