The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series went qualifying on Friday for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway. When all three rounds ended, Martin Truex Jr. came out on top to win his 16th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole. The reigning series champion posted a 26.288, 136.945 mph. in the final round.
“It was a good run. We worked really hard coming here, knowing what we’ve done here in the past. We’ve run well, but we never could quite get it just right to go for the pole,” said Truex after earning the pole. “I think we were fifth here last fall. We had a good game plan coming here and I had to adjust my driving a little bit and then adjusted the way they set the car up and it all played into our hands. Just really proud of everybody on this 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Toyota and definitely a good starting spot.”
Truex enters the weekend with two top five and two top 10 finishes through three races in 2018. The series veteran from New Jersey has yet to win at the one-mile oval. Truex finished round one and two in sixth.
Kyle Larson sat second on the leaderboard in round three after posting a 26.346, 136.643 mph. The driver of the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet led round two of knockout qualifying. The California native finished seventh in round one.
“Our qualifying was good. It was a little bit different compared to year’s past with us qualifying about an hour and a half earlier today, which was nice we didn’t have the sun in our face down the front stretch," said Larson. "But, the track was a lot slicker it seemed, especially that first round. We had to adjust on our car a little bit and adjust your driving style more compared to normal, which was fun to do. But, yeah, it would have been nice to get the pole. I think this is probably by far my best track when it comes to qualifying. I still don’t have a pole, but I’m trying to think… I don’t think I’ve ever qualified worse than eighth here my four previous seasons. Like I said, it would have been nice to get the pole and get that done. We will have a good car come Sunday and hopefully, be in Victory Lane where it really matters."
Larson enters the weekend looking to score his second top five finish of the season. Last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson started fifth and finished third. The young rising star sat 0.058 seconds behind Truex.
Chase Elliott sat third on the leaderboard in the final round at ISM Raceway. Elliott, driving the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet, posted a 26.446, 136.126 mph. in the final round of knockout qualifying. The young driver sat third in round one and second in round two.
Alex Bowman and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
Jimmie Johnson led round one of qualifying and sat 16th in round two. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet did not advance into the final round and will start 16th on Sunday.
Johnson and the No. 48 team look to turn things around after a slow start. Johnson comes into ISM Raceway with a 12th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In the season opener at Daytona, Johnson, a seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, finished 38th due to a crash. In the second race of the year at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Johnson finished 27th.
There was one red flag in round one for Jeffrey Earnhardt making contact with the outside wall. Earnhardt, driving the No. 00 VRX Simulators Chevrolet, had the front tires lock up while making his run. The driver for StarCom Racing was the only car to not post a time in round one and will start 37th on Sunday.