Penske's Joey Logano will be familiar with the view from pole position at Martinsville Speedway, having started at the front in the last two events at the half-mile oval and now successfully clinching his third in a row on Friday afternoon at NASCAR's shortest track.
He's the first driver to achieve the hat-trick since Jeff Gordon in 2003/4, and only the fifth driver in series history to do so - the others being Glen Wood, Darrell Waltrip, Mark Martin and most recently the now-retired Gordon.
"It's so much fun every time we come here to Martinsville, especially in qualifying," said Logano, praising the efforts of his crew chief Todd Gordon. "Qualifying is something that Todd and I have wrapped our heads around and really understand what we have to do inside the race car and outside the race car. I couldn't be more proud of these guys.
"I say all the time that Martinsville is the most important track to start up front and that's when you've got to come here and really show what you've got," he added. "We've got to figure out the race part - we haven't got that grandfather clock [winner's trophy] yet."
Logano swept all three stages of qualifying, and set a final round lap time of 9.513s (97.043mph) to beat Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne to pole by just two thousandths of a second.
"It feels good, the car was really fast," said Kahne. "The guys did a nice job in practice and in qualifying. I just kept getting better with my laps. We didn't make any adjustments. The car is fine. Just let me get my laps a little better. So we did that, and it was close. Joey just barely got us. But it is definitely a good starting spot.
"Pit road is huge here," he added, thinking ahead to Sunday's race. "I feel good about it. We had a top-10 here the last race, last year; with the back-up car because I crashed it in qualifying and this car is better than our primary car was last time ... I feel good about the car and we just need to work through it tomorrow in practice and get it driving the best we can for long runs."
The second row line-up will consist of Brian Vickers - sitting in for Tony Stewart in the Stewart-Haas #14 Chevrolet - alongside Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard.
"I'm pleased, but not satisfied," said Vickers. "We wanted the pole. And when the #22 ran a .51, I thought we could beat that. We made a small adjustment there and it was my call. Maybe it was right. Maybe it was wrong. We just need a little more. But, it's still a pleasure to put this car in the top three for me, on behalf of Tony and this whole team."
"We made a concerted effort during the off-season to improve qualifying," noted Menard. "We've been qualifying pretty good. Austin [Dillon, RCR team mate] had the pole last week. I was hoping to get one this week, but we'll take fourth. It puts us on the outside, but we'll work with that.
"I'm really proud of everybody at RCR. We've got speed in our cars and the cars are just faster. Now we've just got to balance them out to each driver. But, I feel really good about where we're at with the Libman/Menards Chevy."
The third row was another all-Chevy affair with RCR's Ryan Newman paired up with JTG Daugherty Racing's AJ Allmendinger, while reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch is the highest-placed Toyota contender in seventh just ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.
"We had a good car," said Newman. "We basically ended up just about where we were kind of averaged fifth the whole time between practice and qualifying. I can't say that I'm entirely happy with that. We want to win the pole, but it is a good starting spot for us for Sunday. We have something to work with for sure."
"We're slowly getting there for sure," noted Allmendinger. "We kind of got off to a slow start. The West Coast Swing was good; and Martinsville is always a place that I love. We have a lot of sponsors on our car. So, my job is a little easier but a little harder at the same time. But, we're all having a good time. I love the way this team is gelling. Hopefully we will have a fun 500 laps around here."
"We were okay," contributed Busch. "We've just been lacking a little bit overall all day and that's just kind of what we missed it by there. Overall, we have decent speed, we just need some more."
The final places in the top 12 pole shoot-out round were Chase Elliott (Hendrick), Brad Keselowski (Penske) and Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing).
"Obviously, it's just Friday it is the beginning to a long weekend," noted Elliott. "That is every weekend. Qualifying is just a starting spot. We've got to recognize that we've got to be good for 500 laps here on Sunday and that is what we have to work on tomorrow."
"It's nice to get to the third round, but it didn't go the way we wanted it to," sighed Blaney. "We didn't really have good speed that last round, but it's nice to get a decent starting spot. It's on the outside, though, so that kind of stinks, but we'll see how our car is tomorrow."
Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. missed out on advancing to the final round by seven thousandths of a second and as a result will start in 13th place alongside team mate Greg Biffle. Chip Ganassi Racing pair Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will start from 15th and 17th respectively, straddling the Furniture Row Racing #78.
"All in all, we really had an okay day, it wasn't fantastic," admitted driver Martin Truex Jr. "The car handled good all day long and it seemed like we could keep going out and running the same speed, we just can't find that extra little bit to get up there towards the front. If it will do that tomorrow and be good on long runs, that's a big key to going fast here and racing well so we'll bank on that. Tomorrow is a new day and today went okay, just not as fast as we want to be."
SHR's Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch will start from 19th and 23rd, and Hendrick team mates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson qualified in 21st and 24th places. Among those eliminated form qualifying after the first round were JGR's Carl Edwards who will start from 25th, SHR's Danica Patrick (28th) and RCR's Austin Dillon (29th).
Roush's Trevor Bayne will start from 32nd place having already been forced to his back-up car following an accident at the end of the sole 80-minute practice earlier in the day. The #6 hit the wall and suffered significant damage in the final minute of session.
"We had a really good car in race trim and the long run," Bayne said afterwards. "It was lacking short-run speed and I felt like I was really being held up on my brakes. I was having a lot of rear wheel hop getting into the corner, which we really didn't fight that much last year.
"In qualifying trim I thought our car drove good, it handled good, but I was really lagging in the braking zones," he continued. "I tried to just push the braking zone a little bit more and it started wheel-hopping really bad. There was nothing I could do about it. Once it started bouncing I tried to save it and once it got backwards stood in the gas and it just backed in.
"I really hate this for our AdvoCare team. You never want to tear one up, especially not in practice, but maybe that rear wheel-hop won't be in our back-up car and we can go qualify OK," he said. "The back-up car will be good."
See full NASCAR Sprint Cup practice and qualifying times from Martinsville Speedway
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