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MENCS: Logano collects another Martinsville pole


MARTINSVILLE, N.C. — Joey Logano, not a playoff contender, has earned the pole for the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Fastest in all three rounds, Logano will look to earn his first unencumbered win of the season.

Logano averaged 96.504 mph around the hair-pinned half mile for his fourth pole at Martinsville Speedway.

Not to forgotten, Martin Truex Jr. clocked a fast lap five thousandths of a second slower than the No. 22 Penske Ford. The seven time 2017 winner and championship favorite will start on the front row, ahead of every other playoff driver.

Fan favorites, and the youngest of the playoff drivers, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney will start the 500 lapper from the second row. Both drivers showed speed during practice, and are known for their short track racing talents. Elliott is still searching for his first win, but with Blaney’s Wood Brothers Racing team’s shop a short drive from the track it’s hard to imagine more exciting potential victors.

Bowyer will start fifth, from the third row. Stuck between a gaggle of playoff drivers he’ll look to garner his share of the limelight. Winless since 2012, Bowyer may crave a win with more fever than the young guns starting ahead of him. Starting on the outside of the third row, next to Bowyer, is Denny Hamlin. The First Data 500 maybe Hamlin’s best chance to advance into the Championship four.

Teammate to the pole sitter, Brad Keselowski will roll off the grid seventh. His satellite teammate, Blaney, also starts ahead of him. Having won here in the spring, Keselowski is expected to be every bit of the contender his teammates are. Erik Jones will start to his outside, as the highest qualifying rookie.

Kyle Larson suffered a heartbreaking engine failure last week in Kansas, derailing him from what most-everyone had assumed was, at minimum a championship four season. He’ll start ninth at a track he’s yet to show true prowess on. Aric Almirola is his row-mate, starting in tenth. The No. 43 turned heads when Almirola wheeled his car into the final round of qualifying, Martinsville could be his final chance to make some noise while driving for the famed Richard Petty Motorsports.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from row 11 in his final scheduled Martinsville Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. In the first round of qualifying Earnhardt complained his rear-end couldn’t be kept under him. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

Three playoff drivers missed the final round cut: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson. With minutes left in the second round, Harvick was bumped out by Jones. Busch was already sitting outside the cutline and didn’t make a second go at it, looking to save his tires for the first stint of the race.

Jimmie Johnson was the last driver to attempt a lap in the second round but was the only driver to find trouble during the race-day qualifying session. Digging a little too deep, the seven-time champion wheel hopped his Chevrolet into turn three. Gently kissing the SAFER barrier Johnson managed to keep from damaging his vehicle, however; crew chief Chad Knaus elected to slap on fresh Goodyear tires before the start of the First Data 500, forcing the team to start from the rear of the field.

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