Chase Elliott takes pole for Martinsville Cup race
Elliott had posted the fastest average lap speed in Friday’s practice session, but was only fourth fastest in his group in the first qualifying round.
The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team didn’t throw a punch in the second moto, coming out late and lapping a lap at 96.151 mph – the fastest of any driver on Friday.
The pole is the first of the 2022 season for Elliott, who leads the series standings but remains the only HMS driver without a year so far this year. It is also the 10th pole of his career.
“When they (told me the time) I thought someone might make it happen. Honestly, I was surprised it was that fast,” Elliott said. “I thought I had a good lap but not a good lap.
“It’s good to grab a pole – it’s been a while. Super proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our team for continuing to push and come back strong this weekend. Hopefully we can get the car back in shape for tomorrow night.
“The most important thing than the starting point itself is pit selection and having that first pit. It’s a big deal and it lends itself to earning you a lot of places on pit road.
Aric Almirola was second with a lap of 95.641 mph and Cole Custer was third at 95.598 mph). Chris Buescher and William Byron complete the top five.
The top 10 starters in Saturday night’s race are Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Todd Gilliland.
Custer was the fastest in Group B with an average lap speed of 96.005 – the fastest lap of the day at the time.
Gilliland was second (95.961 mph) and Keselowski third (95.932 mph). Elliott and Buescher rounded out the top five and advanced to round two.
Among those who failed to qualify for the final round were all three Team Penske drivers – Joey Logano, Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney as well as Martin Truex Jr., who has won three of the last five Martinsville races.
Harvick came out late and topped the speed chart averaging 95.743 mph to lead the first group.
Larson – who only ran one lap – was second (95.530 mph) and Byron third (95.468 mph). Almirola and Bell rounded out the top five and qualified for the second run.
Among those who failed to qualify for the final round were Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch and Tyler Reddick.
AJ Allmendinger’s #16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet failed pre-qualifying inspection three times. As a result, team engineer Michael Brookes was ejected from the track and Allmendinger was not allowed to qualify.
The No.16 will also have to serve a passing penalty after taking the green flag in Saturday night’s race.