Story By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – MARTINSVILE, VA – Chase Elliott was the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to break 19.7 seconds in Friday’s knockout qualifying session, earning the pole position for Saturday night’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Driving the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Elliott toured the 0.526-mile short track in 17.694 seconds at 96.151 mph in the second round of time trials, edging Aric Almirola for the top starting spot in the eighth event of the 2022 season. Almirola covered the distance in 19.799 seconds at 95.641 mph.
“It honestly surprised me that it was that fast,” said Elliott, who won the 10th pole of his career, his first at Martinsville and his first since the fourth race of 2020 at Phoenix Raceway. “I didn’t expect it to be in the 60s. I thought I had a good lap but not a great lap. Nice to grab a pole — it’s been a while.
“It’s always good to have a good starting spot. Obviously, Lap 400 (on Saturday) is what pays. The bigger thing, I think, than the starting spot itself is the pit selection. Having that first pit stall is a really big deal and can lend you a lot of opportunity to gain spots on pit road. Hopefully, we can get this thing dialed in to be driving like we want the second half of the race and be around and have a shot at it.”
Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Cole Custer, qualified third, followed by Chris Buescher and William Byron. Kevin Harvick was sixth fastest, giving SHR three of the top six positions on the grid.
Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Todd Gilliland will start seventh through 10th, respectively. Larson was the only driver to run one lap versus two in the first round, a strategy that had worked for pole winner Ryan Blaney last weekend at Richmond.
But Larson locked up his tires in Turn 3 to ruin his money lap and had to settle for eighth fastest.
Elliott also topped the practice leaderboard, which was finalized prior to qualifying. Elliott clocked a 19.995-second lap, the only one below the 20-second mark. Kyle Busch, in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, posted the second-best time at 20.032 seconds.
Fellow Toyota pilot Bubba Wallace in 23XI Racing’s No. 23 entry came in third with a 20.038-second best time.
Alex Bowman (20.040 seconds) and Christopher Bell (20.055 seconds) completed the top-five leaders. Kyle Larson, Byron, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10 in order.