Truex Jr. wins pole at Dover

Truex Jr. stays hot, wins pole
Truex Jr. stays hot, wins pole
All photos Getty Images for NASCAR

The two drivers who have seized control of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff continued their domination in Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Dover International Speedway.

Navigating the Monster Mile in 22.407 seconds (160.664 mph) in the final round, Martin Truex Jr. edged Kyle Busch (160.392 mph) for the top starting spot in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 (on NBCSN at 2 p.m. ET), the elimination race in the Playoff’s Round of 16.

Truex won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his third at Dover — the closest facility to his Mayetta, New Jersey, home town — and the 14th of his career. Winner of a series-best five races this season, Truex will start on the front row for the ninth time this season.

“We just kind of chased it a little bit — chased the balance — and I thought we were pretty close at the end of practice," Truex said. “We hit it pretty close for Round 1 (of qualifying) and tweaked on it a little from there.

“We put together a decent lap for Round 1, and the guys did an awesome job all day. So, really proud of them, and I’m looking forward to getting some more bonus points.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]With a victory at Chicagoland Speedway in the opening event of the Playoff, Truex already has locked up a spot in the Round of 12. His 19 stage wins and 59 Playoff points both are tops in the series.

Going for his third straight qualifying sweep, Busch was fastest in the first and second rounds but fell short in the third. With last Sunday’s victory at New Hampshire, Busch also is guaranteed a spot in the Round of 12.

“It was a good run for us," said Busch, whose lap at 160.800 mph in the second round was the fastest of the day. “I thought the first two rounds, obviously, we showed really good speed — probably used up a little too much tire in Round 2, and I just wasn’t able to follow through in that third round and get a quick enough time to hold off Martin. …

“But I’m excited to have a Toyota front row, and we’ll go race ’em on Sunday."

Kyle Busch to start outside row 1
Kyle Busch to start outside row 1

With Kyle Larson qualifying third and Matt Kenseth fourth, playoff drivers swept the top four spots, and Toyota drivers claimed five of the top six. Daniel Suarez will start fifth, followed by playoff driver Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who posted his first single-digit qualifying effort since winning the pole at Daytona in July.

After posting the third-fastest time in Friday’s opening practice, 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson qualified a disappointing 17th and failed to advance to the final round.

“The track changed a little more than we adjusted for is really what it boils down to," Johnson said. “We felt like it was going to do that and made an effort at it and just didn’t go far enough."

Nevertheless, Johnson has unwavering confidence in his No. 48 Chevrolet under race conditions.

“Yeah, the great thing is just how fast the car was off the truck," said Johnson, who is seeking an unprecedented eighth series championship. “I know when it comes to race time we will be fine here. Qualifying for me is qualifying, so we had speed this morning, and I know it’s in there."

Of the drivers fighting from the bottom of the playoff standings for the final positions in the Round of 12, Ryan Newman had the best effort in time trials, qualifying eighth. Relative to the field, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. improved over practice and secured the 15th position on the grid.

Austin Dillon, currently tied with Stenhouse for the 12th and final position in the next round, will start 23rd, while Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne — both of whom likely will need a victory to advance from their respective 15th and 16th positions in the standings — qualified 13th and 21st, respectively.

“We just didn’t have the rotation we needed to kind of finish off the end of the corner," Dillon said. “It’s tough. We’ve been not that great since we unloaded. We’ll keep working on it though. Usually, the race comes to us a lot more than qualifying does."

Quotes

MARTIN TRUEX Jr., No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing

Starting Position: 1st

How is this weekly battle with Kyle Busch going?

“Well, I’m glad for once we’re first and he’s not. I’ve been second to him a lot in qualifying, so it’s cool to – for us to get a pole. I think he was second, am I correct? Yeah, so it’s – we’ve been on the front row quite a few times together, so feels good that we’re the one in first this time, so it’s pretty cool."

Was there ever a time where you wondered what it would be like to be the guy and does it mean more now?

“Yeah, for sure and I actually think I’ve talked to Jimmie (Johnson) about this before, you know, years ago at Champion’s Week or something. It’s definitely – I think every driver thinks about it at this level when you get here. It takes so many things to come together to be in a position that I’ve been in the past few years really, so, yeah, I’m very thankful and I’m definitely enjoying it. I’m trying to enjoy every single week one at a time. At the same time, there’s that chance at a championship out there, so you can’t lose focus and say, ‘Well, this is going great. We’re just going to show up to the track and everything is going to be fine.’ You still have to work hard. It’s still difficult, so I think we’ve done a good job of just staying focused and getting through all that stuff and continuing to come to the race track and perform, because you never know when it’s going to end or when things could change. So just try to take advantage of the opportunities right now and it’s certainly been a lot of fun, but, you know, I think the more you win, the more success you have, the more you want it I feel like and so we’re going after it every week."

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Starting Position: 2nd

How was your lap in the final round of qualifying?

“Hate it that we didn’t come out of here with our ninth pole of the season, but we’ll take it. It’s a front row starting spot, but hopefully it’ll be a good enough pit selection. Obviously, there’s no better position than number one. We’ve been on a really good roll here as of late with qualifying and everything like that for this year. The M&M’s Carmel Camry has got some good speed in it. I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to have the speed that we needed to contend for a pole, but obviously we had it here right now when it mattered. We’ll go back to the drawing board and work on race stuff for tomorrow."

Do you have nothing to lose this weekend?

“Nothing to lose. Biggest thing that you focus on here is just getting that good starting spot which will allow us to race for stage points up there, but we know who the stage point king is this year, so we’ve got to out race him for those (points). I’m sure there early on, but anything can happen here. We saw last weekend that anything can happen. You can’t expect to not have anything come up out of the next corner you’re in. Dover tends to bite you in the least susceptible moment, so we’ll just keep fighting it out and race hard."

Lineup

Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed
1 78 Martin Truex Jr. (P) Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota 22.407 160.664
2 18 Kyle Busch (P) M&M's Caramel Toyota 22.445 160.392
3 42 Kyle Larson (P) Credit One Bank Chevrolet 22.502 159.986
4 20 Matt Kenseth (P) DeWalt/Flexvolt Toyota 22.504 159.972
5 19 Daniel Suarez # Comcast/ARRIS Toyota 22.515 159.893
6 11 Denny Hamlin (P) FedEx Freight Toyota 22.534 159.759
7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nationwide Chevrolet 22.544 159.688
8 31 Ryan Newman (P) Waste Masters Chevrolet 22.577 159.454
9 4 Kevin Harvick (P) Busch Beer Ford 22.612 159.208
10 77 Erik Jones # SiriusXM Toyota 22.622 159.137
11 21 Ryan Blaney (P) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 22.638 159.025
12 24 Chase Elliott (P) NAPA Chevrolet 22.680 158.730
13 41 Kurt Busch (P) Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford 22.689 158.667
14 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 22.689 158.667
15 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (P) Fastenal Ford 22.705 158.555
16 2 Brad Keselowski (P) Miller Lite Ford 22.713 158.500
17 48 Jimmie Johnson (P) Lowe's Chevrolet 22.726 158.409
18 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 22.737 158.332
19 14 Clint Bowyer Haas Automation Ford 22.754 158.214
20 6 Trevor Bayne Ford EcoBoost Ford 22.811 157.819
21 5 Kasey Kahne (P) Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 22.819 157.763
22 37 Chris Buescher Kingsford Chevrolet 22.826 157.715
23 3 Austin Dillon (P) AAA Chevrolet 22.842 157.604
24 10 Danica Patrick Warriors in Pink Ford 22.923 157.048
25 27 Paul Menard Richmond/Menards Chevrolet 22.875 157.377
26 1 Jamie McMurray (P) GearWrench Chevrolet 22.923 157.048
27 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet 22.939 156.938
28 38 David Ragan TheHouse.com Ford 23.006 156.481
29 13 Ty Dillon # GEICO Chevrolet 23.038 156.264
30 95 Michael McDowell FDNY Foundation Chevrolet 23.100 155.844
31 34 Landon Cassill MDS Ford 23.311 154.434
32 15 Ross Chastain(i) Use Your Melon, Drive Sober DE Chevrolet 23.506 153.152
33 72 Cole Whitt TriStar Motorsports Chevrolet 23.519 153.068
34 83 Brett Moffitt(i) HIKvision Toyota 23.544 152.905
35 66 Timmy Hill(i) O.C.R Gaz Bar Chevrolet 23.710 151.835
36 51 BJ McLeod(i) Donnie Neuenberger Foundation Chevrolet 24.107 149.334
37 23 Corey LaJoie # Fresh Beards Toyota 24.174 148.920
38 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt hulu Chevrolet 24.192 148.810
39 55 Reed Sorenson Sundance Vacations Toyota 191.747 18.775
40 32 Matt DiBenedetto Keen Parts Ford 0.000 0.000

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