NASCAR Cup: Martin Truex Jr. takes pole at Talladega
Martin Truex Jr. (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
Saturday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway went from bad to good for Martin Truex Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team. After jack screws were confiscated during pre-qualifying inspection, they were replaced and Truex posted a 49.508-second/193.423 mph lap during the second of two rounds of single-car qualifying to claim the pole for Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500, the elimination race of the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It’s Truex’s fourth pole of 2016 but the first of his careeer at Talladega.
“It’s definitely cool,” Truex said. “You come here and you don’t really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously, proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. Build a brand new car to come here, and it’s awesome to be the fastest guy in town.”
Three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas — the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin, the No. 18 of Kyle Busch and the No. 20 of Matt Kenseth — also had trouble getting through inspection. The only one of the group who got through without issues was the No. 19 of Carl Edwards.
Edwards, though, joined Kyle Busch among five of the remaining 12 Chase drivers outside the top-12 at the end of the first round of qualifying and, therefore, sidelined for the second round. Edwards and Busch will line up 13th and 14th on Sunday. Kenseth and Hamlin, meanwhile, got to round two and qualified third and eighth.
The other three Chasers failing to advance out of round one of qualifying were Joey Logano in 16th, Jimmie Johnson in 17th and Kevin Harvick in 22nd.
Brad Keselowski qualified second to line-up next to Truex on the front row for Sunday’s race. Kenseth will share row two with Chase Elliott, who sat on the pole earlier this season when the Sprint Cup Series last raced at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s good to qualify up front,” Keselowski said. “I think it’s a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully, it will stay the same for Sunday.”
Greg Biffle wash the highest-qualifying non Chaser, rounding out the top-five. He’ll have Roush Fenway Racing teammate next to him in the third row.
“It’s great to start in the top-five,” Biffle said. “We’ve got a decent car, and my teammates are right around us, but it’s so tight up there. Just a little tiny gust of wind can make the difference, so we’re really close. The times re super-tight. I’m surprised.”
Reed Sorenson’s 49.324-second/194.145 mph lap in the opening round was the fastest lap turned, overall, during the qualifying session, but after posting the fastest time in the opening round, Sorenson was the slowest of the 12 drivers who made laps in round two. As a result, he’ll line-up 12th for the green flag Sunday.
Below, is the complete starting grid for the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway:
Row 1 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 2 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet)
Row 3 — Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 4 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 5 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Paul Meneard (Nno. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 6 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Reed Sorenson (No. 55 Toyota)
Row 7 — Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 8 — Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 9 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Ryan Reed (No. 99 Ford)
Row 10 — Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Brian Scott (No. 44 Ford), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 14 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Casey Mears (No. 13 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — Regan Smith (No. 7 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet)
Row 16 — Landon Cassill (No. 38 Ford), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — Chris Buescher (No. 34 Ford), Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Matt DiBenedetto (No. 93 Toyota), Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet), Bobby Labonte (No. 32 Ford)
Row 20 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 83 Toyota), David Ragan (No. 23 Toyota)
DNQ (did not qualify): David Gilliland