MARTINSVILLE, Va. – There’s just something about Busch Pole Qualifying at Martinsville Speedway for defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano.
Logano rolled to his fifth-career pole at the Virginia paper clip on Saturday afternoon, ripping off a lap of 19.356 seconds (97.830 mph) during the final round with his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang.
The full hand of poles for the Middletown, Conn., has all come since 2015, with Logano topping five of the last seven completed qualifying sessions at the .526-mile oval.
While he wouldn’t put his finger on specifically what’s clicked for him in Martinsville qualifying, Logano was still all smiles after his pole-winning run in the final round.
“This kind of a (qualifying) streak certainly isn’t by chance; we work at it a lot,” Logano told SPEED SPORT. “It has just been a track where, for most of my career, I’ve qualified pretty well at … but once I teamed up with Todd (Gordon, crew chief) and Team Penske I was really able to turn a lot of those close qualifying efforts into poles.
“That’s nice. That’s great. It’s a challenging place to do it at, because there’s so much that goes into each round and each lap. … What you do in each round really makes a difference when you get to the third round,” Logano added. “There’s a lot that goes into it, but I think there’s more than just a fast race car that allows us to make a run at it each time we come here to Martinsville.”
Logano was also visibly worn out, despite being excited as he climbed from his car after qualifying.
“Here, you have to run quite a few laps in order to lay down the fast one, which makes me run out of breath,” Logano laughed. “It’s the most intense qualifying session for me of any of them that we do. I don’t know why that is, because we go slower here than anywhere else we go and yet I’m breathing harder than anywhere else we go. There must be something to all that.”
Saturday marked the 21st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole for Logano, who went to victory lane in the last Cup race held at Martinsville in October after a thrilling duel with Martin Truex Jr.
Logano’s pole run led a Ford sweep of the front two rows of the grid for Sunday’s STP 500, with Aric Almirola joining Logano on the front row after a lap of 19.393 seconds (97.643 mph) in the No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Mustang.
Almirola noted that he “felt like a hero” after leading much of the final round, but was disappointed to be nipped by Logano in the final seconds of the third round.
“I felt good about my run, but I knew I made a mistake on my last run, so I was hoping that we’d be able to get away with it just based on the speed we had in our car,” he said. “The 22 (Logano) is always really good here, and typically when you show up here, you’re going to have to beat the 22 to get the pole.
“I felt like we had a good shot at it, but that little glitch I had just cost us too much time there.”
Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick will share row two, while five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin was the fastest Toyota driver in fifth.
Second-year Cup Series driver William Byron led the Chevrolet contingent in sixth, with Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Truex, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson filling the top 12 in the final round.
Chris Buescher was the first driver who failed to advance to the final round and will roll off 13th (19.571/96.755) on Sunday for JTG Daugherty Racing, while Kyle Busch starts 14th in his pursuit of a third-straight Cup Series win and second weekend sweep in the last 17 days.
Other notables mired back in the field include Ryan Blaney (18th), Erik Jones (19th), Kurt Busch (20th) and Ryan Newman (21st).
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the first driver bitten by NASCAR’s new enforcement of pit-road speed enforcement in qualifying during the first round on Saturday. He rolls off 25th for Sunday’s race.
Of note, because Sunday is an impound race and technical inspection will be done on race morning, all qualifying positions are unofficial. Should a driver fail tech, they will lose their starting spot and be forced to drop to the rear of the field.
To view the complete starting lineup, advance to the next page.