Posted By: David Morgan – Follow at @damorgan86
October 22, 2016
With elimination being the name of the game in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega, Martin Truex, Jr. got a jump on the competition in qualifying as he was the fastest of them all, scoring his fourth pole of the season and his first restrictor plate pole since 2009.
Truex laid down the second fastest time in the first round behind the surprise fast lap of Reed Sorenson, but when it mattered most, Truex was able to power his No. 78 Toyota around the 2.66 mile track to move to the top of the board with a lap of 49.508 seconds, 193.423 mph.
“It’s definitely cool. You come here and you don’t really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team, everybody in Denver, and everybody here at the race track for their efforts. Built a brand new car to come here and it’s awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, obviously TRD, everybody building the engines has done a great job. It takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and it’s definitely neat to lead Toyota to their thousandth start tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the victory when the day is over,” said Truex.
Winner of May’s race at Talladega, Brad Keselowski, clocked in on the outside of the front row, just .015 second behind Truex’s time.
“It’s good to qualify up front. I think it’s a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday,” said Keselowski.
“It’s been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in and I think we’re ready to do just that.”
Matt Kenseth will roll off third, followed by Chase Elliott, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, Trevor Bayne, and Reed Sorenson to round out the top-12.
Chase drivers made up seven of the top-12 starting positions, with Carl Edwards qualifying 13th, Kyle Busch in 14th, Joey Logano in 16th, Jimmie Johnson in 17th, and Kevin Harvick in 22nd.
Ryan Reed, who is making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut on Sunday, will start in 18th.
During the first round of qualifying, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were all pulled off of the grid to make an additional trip through the inspection bay. All four cars went back through inspection and were subsequently cleared to return to the grid to make their qualifying run.
Polesitter Truex also had some issues in pre-qualifying inspection after a jack bolt was found to be out of compliance. The part was confiscated by NASCAR and they will take it back to the R&D Center for further evaluation. Any penalties, which could have Chase implications after Talladega, would be announced later in the week as usual.
“It’s just a front jack screw that was – when they drilled the top down to put the – I guess they broach the hex in the top so you can put the wedge wrench in there and it’s just a little too deep. It wasn’t a big issue. It wasn’t a hollow jack screw like some people are saying on Twitter. It was just a part that was machined a little bit wrong I guess is what the team told me and they don’t think it’s a big issue,” Truex said of the confiscated part.
“We had a part that we didn’t feel like met the specifications that we have in the rule book. Not a real competitive advantage, so what we’ll do with that one, we’ll take it back to the R&D Center and go through our normal process like we do, analyze everything and decide what we’re going to do. It’s no different than the JGR cars or cars that failed the templates and had to go back through. It’s our job to officiate the sport and make sure everything’s right and this part and the rest of today’s activities are no different than we do every week,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition.
When asked if the part off of the No. 78 would cause a points penalty, Miller stated: “I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process. We don’t typically do that on a weekend. This is really, because it is the playoffs, everyone has a heightened sense of everything, but this is no different than things that we’ve done all year and we will treat this one just like we do all year long.”