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Busch and Hamlin secure JGR lockout at Martinsville

Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin will start alongside each other on the front row for Sunday's STP 500 Cup race.
See full qualifying results from Martinsville.

Kyle Busch won his first pole position of the year, making it six different polesitters in the first six races of 2014, after his lap of 18.998s (99.674mph) on the half-mile Martinsville Speedway saw him 0.024s clear of his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin in the second and final round of qualifying.

"It certainly is a great day for us and the whole team," said Busch. "They did a great job. We unloaded with a fast car and we tried to dial it in as best we could with race trim and then right there at the last second we did a qualifying run and that was about all we got.

"We were third [in the first round] and then especially the changes that we made in between to continue to try to put down fast laps with the tyres kind of diminishing there," he added. "We were able to do that. The second one we actually picked up a little bit of time so hooray for me and the team and we're on the pole here so that's good!"

Its the first time that Busch has won pole at Martinsville, and is the 28-year-old's 14th pole in 335 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. This weekend's pole means that Busch has now chalked up seven consecutive seasons with at least one pole position.

However, Busch's pole time was not the fastest of the afternoon: with the first round of qualifying providing the faster times thanks to having new tyres, Joey Logano's lap of 100.201mph (18.898s) proved the fastest of the day and was also a new qualifying track record beating the previous benchmark of 19.013s (99.595mph) set previously by Hamlin last October.

For Hamlin himself, getting onto the front row just five days after being forced to pull out of last week's Cup race at Fontana due to a health scare was very much a statement of intent that things were back to normal.

"It was a solid qualifying effort for us," he said. "I kind of knew while I was running the lap that it wasn't a pole-type lap. Surprisingly, it ended up as close as we did. Just fought loose most of the time. I think the track is pretty free right now in general."

Nevertheless, Hamlin was keenly aware that starting on the outside line at the short track was a definite disadvantage.

"A little bit yeah — on restarts that can really hurt you for sure," he admitted. "The one good thing you can have is teammates up front that cut you breaks here and there.

"Once you do get hung up on the high side you definitely are at a huge disadvantage over the bottom lane," he added. "I would much rather be fifth on the bottom than second on the outside pole any day [but] there's a lot of time to make it up. It's just those last crucial restarts where you definitely want to put yourself on the bottom."

Busch and Hamlin will start ahead of Logano and Jimmie Johnson on row 2, with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth on row 3 ahead of Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, while row 5 sees Jamie McMurray starting alongside Stewart-Haas Racing's Danica Patrick - her best Cup qualifying performance at a non-restrictor plate event (she took pole for last year's Daytona 500) and the first time that she's made it through to the final round of qualifying since the new elimination format was introduced this season.

Friday saw rain curtail practice for the supporting NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, but the track was dried in time for Cup qualifying by NASCAR's new upgrade to its Air Titan vehicles. Saturday could see significant rain and may affect the Cup drivers' chance to run practice sessions in race trim, as well as possibly delaying the Truck race scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

"We got quite a bit of race run in today just in case it does rain - we feel pretty confident in what we have for Sunday," said Hamlin. "Tyre wear is going to be big on Sunday and it's something that we're going to work on [Saturday] during practice and focus on."

See full qualifying results from Martinsville.



Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks to Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with his team after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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