MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, and Chase Elliott earned the right to make his debut in the series by qualifying 27th.
Logano turned a fast lap at 98.461 mph in the third round of qualifying, edging Ryan Newman (98.328), to win the 10th pole of his career and his second this season. It’s his first at Martinsville.
”You win anything at Martinsville, it’s a big deal,” Logano said, adding that having only run five laps to get through the first two rounds of qualifying gave him an advantage heading into the final round.
”Nothing but good things happen from starting first,” he said.
Newman was pleased, despite coming up short.
”I felt like we were super competitive and just got beat by a little bit,” he said.
Martin Truex Jr. (98.018), Jeff Gordon (97.613) and Jimmie Johnson (97.583) complete the top five.
Gordon and Johnson have each won eight times on the oldest, shortest oval in NASCAR’s top series.
Elliott, who will replace the retiring Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports in 2016, needed to finish in the top 36 of the first round of qualifying to assure himself a spot in the field.
”That was goal No. 1 for us. Big relief. We’re excited,” he said, adding ”I don’t know how I feel about being excited being 27th, but at the same time I’m really excited to make our first Cup race. Just crazy how much different of a world this is on this side of things, being timed so close.”
With 45 drivers attempting to make the field, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Brendan Gaughan missed out.
Elliott hopes to make five starts in the series this year, and to learn as much as he can before taking over Gordon’s iconic No. 24 Chevrolet.
”Obviously we want to go as fast as we can for as long as possible,” the reigning Infinity Series champion said. ”No, we don’t want to aim to not do well. We want to do the best we can and make the most of these races and try to gain as much knowledge as possible.
”To have an opportunity to go run five races doesn’t seem like a lot, but at the end of the day it really is if you can get in all five and make those laps.”