RIDGEWAY, Va. — A thunderstorm that moved into the lower Virginia area around 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon forced Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series officials to cancel Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
As a result, points leader Kyle Larson was awarded the top spot on the grid for the sixth Cup race of the season, continuing his recent surge of momentum at NASCAR’s premier level.
Larson, who has traditionally struggled at the ‘Paper Clip’ in the past, will now have the benefits of the No. 1 pit stall and a clear windshield as he hunts his second-consecutive Cup victory and first Ridgeway grandfather clock.
“I think it’ll be a good advantage to start on the pole, and hopefully I can get the jump and take care of my stuff for the first part of the race,” he said. “That number one pit stall is going to be big here … it seems like that stall is as good as it gets on pit road at any race track. I’m excited about that; we’ll work on a tight condition that we had in practice and hopefully be good come Sunday in the race.”
Larson leads the points by 29 markers over Chase Elliott, who will start on the outside of the front row two years on from his Cup debut at Martinsville.
“Any time I can do anything good at Martinsville, it’s great for me,” Elliott quipped. “This track has been a struggle for me, so we’ll definitely take this. I think more than anything, the fact that we have a nice pit pick benefits us for the race on Sunday, and hopefully we can get our car dialed in during practice tomorrow and get things going. The rain was a big help to us, though. I can’t complain at this.”
Martin Truex Jr. and Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will start third through fifth, respectively.
Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and defending race winner Kyle Busch fill out the first five rows on the grid.
Notables outside the top 10 include five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin, who starts 12th; and nine-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson, who rolls off 17th in search of his 10th grandfather clock.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams return to action on Saturday at 11 a.m. ET for their second of three rounds of practice.
The full starting grid for Sunday’s race can be viewed on the next page…