Date: March 28, 2014
Event: STP 500 Qualifying (Round 6 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (.526-mile oval)
Pole Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (18.998 seconds at 99.674 mph)
SHR Lineup: Tony Stewart (7th, 19.150 seconds at 98.883 mph)
Danica Patrick (10th, 19.290 seconds at 98.165 mph)
Kevin Harvick (18th, 19.184 seconds at 98.707 mph)
Kurt Busch (22nd, 19.203 seconds at 98.610 mph)
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway by setting the seventh-fastest lap in qualifying for Sunday’s STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Stewart turned a lap of 19.150 seconds at 98.883 mph on the .526-mile oval.
“I’m pretty happy. Code 3 Associates is on our car this week and the last time I drove their car, we won at Dover last year. Excited for them and excited for us,” said Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup winner at Martinsville (October 2000, April 2006 and October 2011). “We’re battling weather here this weekend. It was supposed to rain out today and we got that in. Now they’re saying it might rain out tomorrow. If that does happen, I’m kind of comfortable with what we’ve got if we have to go straight to the race. We’ve got some things we can do to make it a little better, but all in all, our Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet is a pretty balanced racecar.”
Qualifying consisted of two rounds. The first was 30 minutes, with every driver on the track vying to set the fastest lap. The 12 fastest drivers from the first round advanced to the second and final, 10-minute round of qualifying where they battled for the pole. Positions 1-12 were set by speeds set in the final round. The remaining 43-car field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance into the final round.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 10th with a time of 19.290 seconds at 98.165 mph.
“I don’t think we started off very well, but we made good improvements and when our GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet went into qualifying trim, it was much better than it felt in race trim,” said Patrick, who will make her third Sprint Cup start at Martinsville on Sunday. “Then Tony (Gibson, crew chief) made good changes from practice to qualifying and that’s why we went faster.”
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 18th with a time of 19.184 seconds at 98.707 mph.
“Our Budweiser Chevy was a touch too tight in the center of the corner in qualifying today and we didn’t get the starting position we were looking for,” said Harvick, who won at Martinsville in April 2011. “We only made a few laps in race trim in practice, but not many. We’ll see what the weather lets us do tomorrow and go from there.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 22nd with a time of 19.203 seconds at 98.610 mph.
“The Haas Automation Chevrolet was just too loose to get what we needed in qualifying,” said Busch, who won at Martinsville in October 2002. “We needed another tenth, but couldn’t get it where we needed once qualifying started. Our guys are going to work at it and hopefully we get some practice time tomorrow. We have some work to do, but I’m confident we’ll get there.”
Kyle Busch won the pole in the final round of knockout qualifying with a lap of 18.998 seconds at 99.674 mph. It was his 14th career Sprint Cup pole, his first of the season and his first at Martinsville.
Denny Hamlin will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 19.022 seconds at 99.548 mph.
The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Stewart, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Patrick, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.
Logano set a new track qualifying record in the first round with a lap of 18.898 seconds at 100.201 mph, breaking the previous Sprint Cup track qualifying record of 19.013 seconds at 99.595 mph set by Hamlin on Oct. 25, 2013.
Forty-four drivers attempted to qualify for the 43-car field. David Reutimann was the lone driver who did not make the race.