When the NASCAR Cup Series comes to a superspeedway, it’s usually Hendrick Motorsports that sits at the top of the scoring pylon in single-car qualifying. However, on Saturday, it was Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. locking out the front row for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Bell – who was quickest in both rounds of qualifying — posted the fastest time of the session to collect his second pole of the season, putting down a 52.927-second lap (180.928mph), the only driver to break into the 52-second bracket.
For Bell, this lap was a testament to the strength shown by TRD and JGR as a whole on Saturday.
“There’s not much to say about the lap, just a lot to say about Toyota, TRD the engine package that they brought here and then the cars assembled by JGR,” Bell said. “This No. 20 group did a really good job, obviously, gave me the best car in the field today, so, hopefully we can keep it going and be up front tomorrow.”
For Bell, it was exciting to see the Toyota teams, which usually focus more on race speed at the superspeedways, come out swinging with fast qualifying laps on Saturday.
“This is the first time I’ve ever made the second round of qualifying for a Superspeedway in a Cup car,” Bell said. “So, that’s really cool. I know we were close in Daytona, and they felt we could make improvements going into Talladega. Really happy with the progress they made, obviously…”
Martin Truex Jr. will start Sunday’s GEICO 500 from second place, with Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez, and Kyle Larson rounding out the top five.
While the race trophy is awarded on Sunday, not Saturday, Truex was encouraged by the solid effort by the Toyotas in qualifying.
“Makes your job a little easier when you have speed and hopefully that’ll help us tomorrow,” Truex said. “No guarantees obviously. It guarantees nothing, but good starting spot and fast race car. Good job by everybody…”
Truex also is encouraged by sharing the front row with a teammate, as it should allow the JGR group to get partnered early and often on Sunday.
“Yeah. I mean I’m sure at some point, we’d like to be six cars in a line out front, leading and controlling the race,” Truex explained. “Your whole goal is to control the race, that’s the easiest way to stay out of the wrecks.”
Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, and Tyler Reddick completed the top-10, as the drivers all advanced to the second round of qualifying.
Among the drivers that weren’t quick enough to advance into the second round were Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, who shockingly only posted lap times good enough to earn the 27th and 28th starting spots.
As reported yesterday, Landon Cassill and Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 team were not permitted to make a lap in Saturday’s qualifying session after failing pre-qualifying tech three times. Cassill will have to serve a pass-through penalty on the first lap of Sunday’s event.