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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, will be on the front row after qualifying for second position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Dillon is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Stewart is 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for sixth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Busch is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 Maxwell House Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, speak in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane with wife Samantha and son Brexton Locke after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, places the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a ninth place finish Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with third place finisher Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, races to a third place finish Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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