Martin Truex Jr. was fastest in qualifying Friday at Richmond Raceway, while Kyle Busch turned in a subpar qualifying effort that will have him starting deep in the field for the Toyota Owners 400 Cup Series race Saturday night.
Truex posted a 123.859 mph average lap to secure his third pole of the season, which comes in his 450th start in NASCAR’s premier division. Chase Elliott qualified second (123.621 mph), followed by defending race winner Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
Truex, the defending Cup Series champion, is seeking his first victory on a short track with each of his 16-career wins coming on tracks one mile or bigger. The Furniture Row Racing driver led a race-high 198 lap last fall at Richmond, before contact with Hamlin caused him to crash out late.
”I thought we had a good practice today, [but] it’s hard to put too much stock into with it being a daytime practice, nighttime race,” Truex said. “But we’ve got some good history to go off here the last couple of years, we’ve been really strong, [and] if we’re ever going to get that short-track win, I feel like this is the place to do it.”
Two-time Richmond winner Kurt Busch qualified sixth, with Erik Jones seventh, Jamie McMurray eighth, rookie William Byron a career-best ninth, and Kevin Harvick 10th.
Daniel Hemric will make his Cup Series debut from the 22nd spot on the grid.
Kyle Busch enters Richmond riding a two-race winning streak, but was only able to record the 32nd-fastest time around the three-quarter mile Virginia track and failed to advance past the first qualifying round. He said a strategy call to conserve his tires by not running hard on his lap backfired, as the expected falloff in grip over the course of a run did not occur.
The starting position is Busch’s worst since starting 34th at Texas Motor Speedway last April.
“We only ran two laps trying to make sure we preserve out tires for later on deeper into the session,” Busch said. “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. So just takes a while for everything to come in. Just trying to short cut it a little bit and it didn’t work out for us.”
Toyota Owners 400 starting lineup
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||123.859|
|12||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||122.399|
|18||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Chevrolet||122.777|