MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Defending First Data 500 winner Kyle Busch got his quest for a Championship 4 berth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series off to a flying start by securing the provisional pole during qualifying on Saturday evening.

Busch toured the .526-mile paperclip in 19.673 seconds (96.254 mph) with his No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota, earning his 31st career Busch Pole Award, second at Martinsville and fourth of the season.

The Las Vegas native and 2015 Cup Series champion won last year’s fall Martinsville race from 14th but will have both the best starting spot and the No. 1 pit stall for Sunday’s 500-lap slugfest.

“This feels pretty good,” said Busch. “My guys … I wouldn’t say you do anything different coming here knowing that you’re one of the top eight, but there’s a lot on the line here, at Texas and at Phoenix with what it means to be able to win one of these next three.

“I enjoy coming to this place more so now at this stage of my career than earlier in my career,” he added. “It’s due to a great team and all these guys and our fast M&M’s Toyota Camrys. It’s nice to have a pole run here today. We don’t qualify that well here all the time, so it gives us some momentum.”

Spring Martinsville victor Clint Bowyer will join Busch on the front row after posting a time of 19.700 seconds (96.122 mph) in the final round. Bowyer is chasing his second-straight win at the paperclip and his third win overall this season.

“Good God, after the way I have been qualifying lately, this feels like I’m sitting on four poles,” Bowyer laughed. “We are on the front row, man. That’s awesome, because I’ve been terrible. It helps to come to a track where you know you have a shot. … Obviously it wasn’t the pole and Kyle (Busch) was faster, but Kyle is really good at laying laps down.

“This feels good. I like the Sunday afternoon drives and hopefully we can get one starting up here.”

Denny Hamlin (19.702/96.112) and Ryan Blaney (19.706/96.093) will share row two on Sunday, with Aric Almirola completing the fast five.

Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez were sixth through ninth, respectively, with Kyle Larson ending up as the fastest Chevrolet driver in 10th.

Joey Logano and rookie William Byron completed the 12 drivers who advanced through all three knockout rounds.

Playoff contender Kevin Harvick was the first driver below the cut line at the end of the second round and will line up 13th (19.822/95.530) on Sunday in the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford.

Chase Elliott was the lowest qualifier among the eight title contenders and starts 21st.

The starting grid is unofficial until the conclusion of technical inspection on Sunday morning.

To view the starting lineup, advance to the next page.