KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Martin Truex Jr. admitted following Friday evening’s Coors Light Pole Qualifying session at Kansas Speedway that his flying lap may well have been the most importnat one he’s run all season long.
After all, not only did it give him the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), but it also gave him the first pit stall selection for next weekend’s playoff race at Martinsville Speedway as well, due to the same-day qualifying format set for use at the half-mile paper clip.
In the end, it was a win-win for the driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, who notched his 15th career pole and third of the season with a lap of 28.719 seconds (188.029 mph) around the 1,5-mile oval in the third and final knockout round.
“It’s pretty big,” Truex said of winning the pole. “It’s the biggest one at this point in time, so that’s what matters. We race one week at time and just try to do the best job we can. Obviously, we knew this was a big one tonight with next week’s pit selection … so I’m just really proud of everybody.”
“We had great execution all day, with making the right adjustments and calls throughout qualifying there. We just had to step it up, I’m shaking a little bit after that (lap).”
Truex is in the midst of a torrid three-week stretch that includes a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway that automatically advanced him into the Round of 8 and a sponsorship announcement at Talladega Superspeedway that fully funds his Furniture Row Racing machine for the entire season next year.
When you add Friday’s pole effort to that mix, it’s a really good time to be Truex right now, as he chases his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
“This stuff is so difficult,” Truex said of maintaining performance at the highest level. “All these teams out here work so hard trying to be better than what we have been the last couple times. If you’re not getting better, you’re going backwards.”
“This pole is just a credit to my team. The guys worked really hard on this car back in Denver this week with a lot of updates, so thanks to all those guys back at the shop for busting their tails and it’s been an awesome job by my guys here on the road.”
A pair of Blue Ovals will follow Truex to the green flag on Sunday, as Kevin Harvick timed in second-fastest (28.772/187.682) with the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and Ryan Blaney posted the third-quickest lap (28.782/187.617) with his No. 21 Omnicraft Ford.
Blaney’s effort is especially notable as far as potential stage points go for the cutoff race, as he enters Kansas just nine points ahead of the elimination line, sitting seventh in points for the Wood Brothers.
“I ran the bottom in (turns) one and two during the first two rounds, and I saw some cars do the second lane and they were a little bit faster than we were, so I tried it and I just got tight up there,” Blaney admitted. “I got in there a little faster than I should have and just couldn’t turn like I needed to. (Turns) three and four were pretty good, but just lost (time) on the other end.”
“It’s still a good effort by the Wood Brothers team. I enjoy coming here and I feel like we excel pretty well here. Our confidence is up, and when you have a good Friday and good qualifying effort at a track where you run well, it just pumps everyone up that much more. Everyone’s really happy to be here in Kansas and we’re looking forward to Sunday.”
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