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NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. claims third pole of year at Richmond

FONTANA, CA – MARCH 16: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 16, 2018 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Martin Truex claimed his third pole of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season Friday evening with a 21.799-second/123.859 mph lap in the third of three rounds of qualifying at Richmond (Va.) Raceway for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400. It’s his first-career pole at Richmond.

“Just proud of the effort today,” Truex said. “Everybody did a great job, and we stayed focused on our plan, and it worked out. I’m just proud of everybody on this Bass Pro Shops Camry, and hopefully, we’ll have a great run tomorrow night.”

All three manufacturers were represented in the top-three in the final round, and therefore, the top-three on the race starting grid, with Chevrolet driver Chase Elliott qualifying second to start Saturday night next to Toyota driver Truex on the front row. Ford driver and last year’s Toyota Owners 400 winner Joey Logano qualified third.

“I thought it was much improved from where we have been,” Elliott said. “You’ve got to take the small victories every now and then in life, and especially in the racing world. We are just trying to take those right now. A much better Friday than we have been having. This has been a ridiculous stretch of races for me and our team. We have just been struggling and kind of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. We have had fast cars at times, just hasn’t seemed to work out. I typically don’t qualify very good, so I’m happy we could have a good qualifying effort and, hopefully, our car in race trim is one spot better.”

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five in qualifying.

Including Elliott, three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers made the final round of qualifying to vie for top-12 spots on the grid. William Byron was ninth and Alex Bowman 11th. The lone HMS driver outside the top-12 was seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 17th.

“The last few trips here, we have been really good in round one and just havne’t been able to back it up in the rounds after,” Johnson said. “We felt like we had some good changes to try to help that for this weekend, and unfortunately, it didn’t come through. That round one time was strong and good, and I just unfortunately couldn’t back it up in round two.”

Two other former series champions, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, a four-time Richmond winner and winner of the the last two Cup Series races, failed to advance beyond round one. Keselowski wound up 28th. Busch was 32nd. After being docked 15 minutes of practice time earlier in the day as a result of two pre-race inspection failures last weekend at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway, Busch qualified 32nd. He didn’t make a mock qualifying run in either of the day’s practice sessions.

“We didn’t make a mock run in practice, and we thought the spread would be about 0.3 and (Kevin) Harvick ran a 0.74 or something like that, and we ran a 0.05, and it wasn’t” Busch said. “It was faster than that, and we only ran two laps, trying to make sure we preserve our tires for later on, deeper into the session. A bunch of those guys ran three laps, and obviously, we needed that third lap. It would have picked up. For some reason, the tire here today, even in race trim, your fastest lap was the seventh lap. It takes awhile for everything to come in, and we were trying to shortcut it a little bit and didn’t work out for us, so we’ll come from the way far back.”

Truex also was the fastest in round one of qualifying with a 21.752-second/124.127 mph lap. Hamlin, despite struggling with a steering issue in practice was the fastest in round two with a 21.691-second/124.476 mph lap, the fastest, overall, of the qualifying session.

“I think that we have some issues for sure,” Hamlin said after practice. “We’re trying to work them out. Obviously, it’s super frustrating from my standpoint and it is for them, too.”

Below is the complete starting grid for Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway
Row 1 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Chase Elliott (No. 9 Chevrolet)
Row 2 — Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 3 — Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford)
Row 4 — Erik Jones (No. 20 Toyota), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet)
Row 5 — William Byron (No. 24 Chevrolet), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford)
Row 6 — Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 7 — Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Ford), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 8 — David Ragan (No. 38 Ford), Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford)
Row 9 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Darrell Wallace (No. 43 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 21 Ford)
Row 11 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Daniel Hemric (No. 8 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Michael McDowell (No. 34 Ford)
Row 13 — Aric Almirola (No. 10 Ford), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 14 — Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 15 — Kasey Kahne (No. 95 Chevrolet), Ross Chastain (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 16 — Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 17 — A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet), Gray Gaulding (No. 23 Toyota)
Row 18 — Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet), Landon Cassill (No. 00 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Reed Sorenson (No. 55 Chevrolet), Harrison Rhodes (No. 51 Chevrolet)

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Posted by on April 20, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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