Truex bounces back from Chase elimination to win pole
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) 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 Sunday. 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 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 Speedway.
''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, and get the grandfather clock when we're done.
''We're not in the business of getting poles, we're in the business of winning races. A lot of times that takes winning the pole, but in general we want to win the race.''
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.
''That is a great starting spot, great pit road pick,'' Johnson said. ''Definitely doing things and headed in the right direction.''
AJ Allmendinger qualified fifth, Chase Elliott was sixth and Tony Stewart seventh as three drivers not in the Chase had strong runs.
''If that thing will run as good Sunday as it did today, we've got a shot at this,'' said Stewart, who is retiring at the end of this season.
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, and he'll start 17th.
''I look forward to Martinsville, it's been a good track for us,'' Kenseth said. ''We don't have all the finishes to show for it, but we've done pretty well. I always look forward to the challenge, hopefully we can put together a perfect race and work our way toward the front and have a shot.''
Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing, are the only two Chase drivers starting behind Kenseth. Harvick will start 20th and Busch will start 23rd.
Jeff Gordon qualified 10th for what is assumed to be his final race. He's in the eighth and final scheduled race as replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is out with a concussion Gordon is a nine-time winner at Martinsville, and the defending race winner.