Undeterred by any supposed disadvantage facing Group B qualifiers in Saturday’s final round, Martin Truex Jr. put down an enviable lap in winning the pole position for Sunday‘s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Truex covered the 1.366-mile distance in 29.028 seconds (169.409 mph) to edge fellow Toyota driver Bubba Wallace for the top starting spot in Sunday‘s NASCAR Cup Series race. Wallace was .012 seconds behind Truex at 169.339 mph.
In theory, the top five qualifiers in Group A, which included Wallace, had an edge over the top five in Group B, which ran later on a hotter track. But Truex overcame the disadvantage to earn his first Busch Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Darlington and the 21st of his career.
Truex said his crew made adjustments to his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that improved the car for the final round.
“We just made the balance really good,” said Truex, who scored a pole on his 15th different race track. “We felt good about our car in Round 1, and I knew one specific thing, if we could get it better, we‘d have a shot at it. It‘s been a long time, I guess, since we‘ve had a pole (last year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway).
“Last year, we never really qualified all that great. We‘ve been working on that a lot and really getting a lot better on that here lately.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (168.752 mph) qualified third, followed by William Byron (168.342 mph) and series leader Ross Chastain (168.094 mph), who will start on the inside of the third row next to Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez (167.836 mph).
“Just got me,” Wallace said after Truex knocked him out of the top spot late in the round. “But all in all, a solid start to our weekend on the Cup side. I had some fun last night in the Truck Series. I forgot how crazy those guys are—guys and gals, I‘m sorry.
“I learned a little bit. We were just on the tight side last night. Definitely not tight this go-around on the Cup side. All in all, our Camry is fast. Martin‘s really good here, obviously… It‘s good to start up front. I‘ve just got to maintain it all race. That‘s going to be a big task for me.”
For Stenhouse, the qualifying effort was his second best of the year, after a second-place start at Auto Club Speedway in February.
“I felt like I nailed it in (Turns) 1 and 2,” said the driver of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Chevrolet. (Turns) 3 and 4 have been our trouble spot over the years, and I was probably too conservative (at that end).”
Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick and Brad Keselowski will start from positions seven through 10 on the grid, respectively. Driving the only Ford in the final round, Keselowski attacked the final two corners aggressively but had to back out of the throttle as his No. 6 Mustang approached the outside wall.
— NASCAR Wire Service —