Ryan Preece won his first NASCAR Cup Series Busch Pole Award in 124 starts Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway with an impressive lap of 19.979 seconds at 94.780 mph in his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford.
He was the only driver to post a speed under 20 seconds during the qualifying session.
“I was fighting loose that first lap,” Preece said, “It’s a pole. Not a race. So I guess from a company standpoint, it makes us all very optimistic for tomorrow, and [we] can just be smart and we can have good days. It certainly shows that our short track program is really good, and I know our superspeedway program has been extremely good too, and we’ll keep working on that.”
Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez was second fastest with a lap of 94.298 mph and will join Preece on the front row to lead the field to green Sunday afternoon.
Stewart-Haas Racing brought the speed with all four drivers starting in the top 10. Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe will start third and fourth while Kevin Harvick starts in seventh.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. qualified fifth to round out the top five.
It was a disappointing day for Hendrick Motorsports. While William Byron qualified in eighth, Kyle Larson will start 19th and Alex Bowman will begin the race in 23rd.
Chase Elliott, in his return to competition after missing six weeks due to a snowboarding incident, will also have work to do, after qualifying 24th.
“I actually feel pretty good,” he said. “I had a dismal qualifying lap, but I can’t blame my leg on that one. I had a pretty good first lap and then I really messed up the exit of [turn] two there ]on the second lap. Judging off of practice, starting in the back is going to be a lot of fun, so looking forward to that in the No. 9 NAPA Chevy. We’ll try to go forward there tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I felt fine in the car,” he continued. “Like I said, the entire practice run, I felt fine. Once you kind of get out there on the track and you start focusing on the little things that you need to be doing to hit your marks, I feel like some of that goes away, so that’s a good thing. Again, my qualifying lap wasn’t because of that, it was just a poor effort.”
The Cup Series NOCO 400 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on FS1 with radio coverage provided by MSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.