CUP: Truex Inherits Loudon Pole After Larson’s Time Disallowed

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Martin Truex Jr. starts on pole after Kyle Larson’s time was disallowed (Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America photo).

LOUDON, N.H. — What looked like a great start to the weekend for Kyle Larson got taken away an hour after he won the pole for Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Larson’s quick mark of 28.568 seconds (133.324 mph) was disallowed when NASCAR found an unapproved rear deck-fin lid on his No. 42 Target Chevrolet, giving second-place starter Martin Truex Jr. the Coors Light pole for Sunday’s race. It comes days after the sanctioning body saw a illegal rear brake cooler on Larson’s Kentucky car, docking him 35 points and losing the point lead in the process.

Before the No. 42 car failed post-qualifying session, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver swept all three rounds of Friday’s Coors Light Pole Qualifying, in addition to besting the field in the day’s only practice.

“We haven’t got to the race yet,” Larson said. “Our Target Chevy’s been really fast, it has a lot of speed but we don’t really have to drive that hard and it just makes a lot of speed so that’s good. We’re missing Chad [Johnston] this weekend and for the next couple of weeks so good to rebound with a pole. That’s pretty strong out of our organization so I got a great lineup of guys and gals. Hats off to everybody at the shop, it’s been so much fun this year.”

“I’ve never really been a great qualifier but this is our fourth pole this season. Hope we can keep it going and figure out where our car works best in the VHT or PJ1, whatever they’re calling it this weekend and hope we have a good race on Sunday.”

Martin Truex Jr. (133.037 mph) qualified second and inherited the pole after Larson’s disallowed time.

“It’s been fun, his car is fast and he’s a good driver and it’s been fun racing with him,” Truex said about Larson. “In practice we were 1-2, and now qualifying we’re 1-2. I thought we had a little advantage there on tires, we only ran one lap the first two rounds and I just didn’t quite have in there that third round. Just a little bit too tight but all in all, it was really a good day. Excited to have WIX on the car for the first time this year and hopefully we can give them a good run on Sunday.”

Truex assumed the point lead after NASCAR handed the No. 42 team a 35-point penalty Wednesday. The No. 78 car now leads Larson by 34 points with eight races to go in the regular season.

Defending series champ Jimmie Johnson (132.688 mph) starts alongside the No. 78 WIX Filters Toyota while recent news-maker Matt Kenseth rolls off third. Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday 21-year-old Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 Toyota in 2018, leaving Kenseth out of a ride. Amidst the bad news, the defending race winner qualified fastest among the Gibbs camp.

Jamie McMurray was fourth followed by another Hendrick-powered car in Kasey Kahne with a fifth-place qualifying effort for the No. 5 bunch. McMurray was one of the first cars to take time in round one while drivers weaved back-and-forth in warming up their tires for the session.

Rookie Erik Jones slotted in sixth as JGR drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were a part of three Toyotas occupying spots sixth-through-eighth (. Hamlin went to a back-up after hitting the inside wall during a spin off of Turn 4 in Friday’s practice.

The Fords of Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch (131.692 mph) and Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski completed the top-10.

Most recent Loudon winner Kevin Harvick got knocked out of the second round in the final seconds, pinning the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford now in 12th for Sunday’s race.

“Our Busch Beer Ford has been really, really loose in qualifying trim on the exit of the corner,” Harvick said. I can get in the corner and turn it through the center of the corner, but as soon as I rotate after that, it’s just dead-sideways from the time that we put it in qualifying trim. We got a little work to do there. We were OK in race trim but just a totally different race car and really loose in qualifying trim.”

The various strategies will take place once again this week at passing is hard to come by at the New England flat-track.

“Stage racing, that mixes the field up,’ Harvick added. “You’ll have a lot of opportunity here to play some strategy, tire strategy, do the things that you need to do to position yourself and then from there, you just got to make the car handle good enough to stay there.”

Matt DiBenedetto qualified a season-best 16th for Go Fas Racing as all three Richard Childress Racing cars didn’t make it past the first round. Phoenix winner Ryan Newman led the RCR bunch in 24th.

The session slowed once when David Ragan spun coming off of pit road in the title-race sponsored car. 39 cars showed up at Loudon so no drivers go home this week.

Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the first of two practice sessions Saturday beginning at 10.a.m. ET (NBC Sports App).

Qualifying Results

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