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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)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, races with Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cameron Hayley, driver of the #13 Cabinets by Hayley/The Carolina Nut Co. Toyota, races with Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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