Martin Truex Jr. resumes 2017 domination with Kansas pole
By Justin Melillo
October 20, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Kan.—The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series concluded Coors Light Pole Qualifying on Friday evening at Kansas Speedway, and for the third time in 2017, Martin Truex Jr. was awarded the pole award.
In the final round of qualifying, the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Furniture Row Racing Toyota topped the likes of Kevin Harvick, who will start second, and Ryan Blaney, who will start third, to claim his second career pole in 19 starts at Kansas.
Truex Jr. also had to defeat his teammate and the four other Toyota Racing drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, as the Toyota Racing family earned six of the twelve spots in the third and final round.
After celebrating the pole award, Truex Jr. stopped into the media center and was genuinely excited about earning the pole position.
“Kansas has been an awesome track for us over the years in general, but really the past couple years we’ve been really strong here,” Truex Jr. said. “I feel like we understand this track really well and the tendencies of it throughout the weekend and that plays into our hand.
“Really honestly just excited to see the speed in the car for qualifying that usually means we’re going to have a pretty solid weekend here. Typically I feel like we always race better here than we qualify even though we did have a pole last year at this race track.
“Definitely optimistic about the rest of the weekend and looking forward to getting to work tomorrow.”
Two of the four Stewart-Haas Racing Fords, driven by Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick, set the gates on fire in the first round of qualifying, taking the top two positions. Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his final race at Kansas as a full time MENCS driver, was sixth fastest in the first round.
Of all of the Round of 12 Playoff Contenders, only Ricky Stenhouse Jr. failed to escape the first round of qualifying, and will start 25th on Sunday.
“In practice we were a little loose,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “We made some adjustments and made our Fastenal Ford a little bit better.
“We were really fighting two things; 3 and 4 I was a little two tight; 1 and 2 I was a little too loose and just didn't have enough grip in our car to get the job done for what we did earlier here this year when we qualified fourth.
“We’ll go back to work tomorrow. We know a few things that we have to do different to get us more like we were here in the spring. Man, the times were so tight right there that I thought we were able to get in but we picked up only a little and not enough."
Kevin Harvick paced the field in round two, with Brad Keselowski finishing second, Truex Jr. again in third, Blaney fourth, and Kenseth again in fifth.
Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, and Chase Elliott, who are all fighting for a Playoff spot in the Round of 12, all did not make the final round of qualifying. They will start 13th, 14th, and 15th respectively.
Johnson barely missed advancing to the final round by only two one-hundredths of a second.
“I think my effort level was kind of dialed-in a little differently today and a little better, Johnson said. “Certainly, we want to be better than that. But, when I look at the fact that I out-qualified my teammates, we got faster through the rounds, starting closer to the front than we have in quite a few weeks, there are some good takeaways from today.
“Qualifying, as we all know, isn’t my sweet spot and I’m trying so hard to get better at that. This is a good week for me and we’re trying to discover some things to get better. I think I can say I’ve gotten a little bit better.”
Collectively fast in the first round, but unable to advance to the final round, Ku. Busch, Patrick, and Earnhardt Jr. were able to continue their pace. Ku. Busch will start 16th on Sunday, Earnhardt Jr. will start 20th, and Patrick will start 23rd.
Eight Playoff drivers advanced to the final round of qualifying, and will occupy the top five positions at the start of the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday.
Harvick was happy with his overall result despite questionable conditions while driving his No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
"For the most part is was three sketchy laps,” Harvick said. “The first time out it was really loose and tight on one end. It was really windy on one end. It was hard to keep up with the car but I did a good job adapting to the first run.
“I got through 1 and 2 okay and as I got into 3 the front end washed out and then the back stepped out and got up a lane. Still a good run considering what was on the line for pit stall selection."
Daniel Suarez was the highest qualifying rookie, barely edging Erik Jones, and they will start sixth and seventh, respectively.
Truex Jr., who won at Charlotte and has already punched his ticket to the Round of 8, earned the first pit stall for both this weekend and next, as pit stalls for Martinsville Speedway will be determined based on Kansas qualifying due to time constraints. The Round of 8 kicks off at Martinsville, and having the first pit stall there will be an advantage.
The Hollywood Casino 400 is scheduled to go green flag racing at 3:16 pm E.T. on Sunday, October 22nd.
Dante Ricci/The Racing Experts