MARTINSVILLE, Va. – At NASCAR Sprint Cup racing’s shortest track, Joey Logano’s torrid run just got longer.
The winner of three straight races—constituting a sweep of the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup—Logano toured .526-mile Martinsville Speedway in 19.215 seconds (98.548 mph) in the final round of Friday’s knockout qualifying session to win the pole for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 (1:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
Driving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Logano edged fellow Chase driver Martin Truex Jr. (98.487 mph) by .012 seconds in the race for the top starting spot for the first race in the Chase’s Eliminator Round.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano’s second at the paperclip-shaped speedway, the first one having come in March of this year. It was the 14th pole of his career, six of which have come in 2015, and it earned Logano a significant benefit above and beyond the top spot on the grid.
Logano will also get the first pit stall (closest to the exit from pit road at the start of the backstretch). There is no other track on the Sprint Cup tour where pit stall No. 1 is more valuable.
“It’s an amazing run we’re on right now,” Logano said. “This Shell-Pennzoil team is unbelievable. I’m just the lucky guy that gets to drive this thing right now.
“It’s so much fun. We’re doing everything right, right now, but all that can end in a blink of an eye, so we’ve got to keep our focus. Starting first here — anywhere here at Martinsville pays a lot bigger than most race tracks. Having a great pit stall and staying up towards front — as well as keeping your fenders on the car is important. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys as I am right now.”
AJ Allmendinger (98.068 mph) led a pair of non-Chasers on the second row. He’ll start to the inside of Jamie McMurray (98.007 mph). Eight-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon qualified fifth at 97.896 mph, followed by fellow Chase driver Kyle Busch (97.850 mph).
“I don’t think anybody had a shot at Joey, really,” said Gordon, who is retiring from the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at the end of the season. “He’s in a league of his own and he has been here, qualifying all year. But we wanted to make a big effort at it and I felt like we did.
“The first two rounds went exactly as planned, and it didn’t feel too bad there (in round 3), but just lacked a little bit of speed. When you go to three rounds, it really changes things dramatically, trying to save tires and see how hard you can push it and keeping up with the balance. I thought we executed really well and came up a little bit short.”
Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and reigning champion Kevin Harvick will start from positions seven through 12, respectively.
Two Chase drivers failed to crack the top 12—Carl Edwards (14th) and Kurt Busch (15th).
“I just wasn’t fast enough the very first run, so I put a run on the tires and got us a cycle behind everyone,” Edwards said. “It’s okay—we’re going to be just fine. I think in my history of qualifying here, this is still about 10 spots better than normal.
“We have a fast pit crew, the car is a lot better than it was in practice … and I’m going to have some fun on Sunday.”
On his fourth lap of the first knockout round, Kasey Kahne wheel-hopped his No. 5 Chevrolet into the Turn 1 wall and was forced to resort to a backup car—a ticket to the rear of the field for the start of Sunday’s race.
Keselowski also scraped the outside wall in the first round but managed to squeeze into 12th place in the second and improved to 11th in the money round.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500
1. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 98.548 mph.
2. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 98.487 mph.
3. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 98.068 mph.
4. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 98.007 mph.
5. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 97.896 mph.
6. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 97.850 mph.
7. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 97.724 mph.
8. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 97.684 mph.
9. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 97.618 mph.
10. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 97.503 mph.
11. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 97.448 mph.
12. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 97.347 mph.
13. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 97.891 mph.
14. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 97.835 mph.
15. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 97.800 mph.
16. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 97.734 mph.
17. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 97.714 mph.
18. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 97.437 mph.
19. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 97.362 mph.
20. (9) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 97.242 mph.
21. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 97.113 mph.
22. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 97.083 mph.
23. (51) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 96.800 mph.
24. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 97.689 mph.
25. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 97.633 mph.
26. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 97.593 mph.
27. (40) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 97.427 mph.
28. (55) David Ragan, Toyota, 97.392 mph.
29. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 97.337 mph.
30. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 97.078 mph.
31. (35) Cole Whitt, Ford, 97.013 mph.
32. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 96.959 mph.
33. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 96.924 mph.
34. (34) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 96.731 mph.
35. (23) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 96.711 mph.
36. (83) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 96.612 mph.
37. (98) Ryan Preece, Ford, Owner Points
38. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, Owner Points
39. (26) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Owner Points
40. (32) Kyle Fowler, Ford, Owner Points
41. (7) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Owner Points
42. (62) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, Owner Points
43. (33) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, Owner Points
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images