Martin Truex Jr. gained the most important thing you can have in Martinsville, Virginia on Saturday — track position. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, who scored the regular-season championship and has since struggled mightily through the Playoffs, has a chance to work his way into the Championship 4 from the pole position in Sunday’s Xfinity 500.
The Championship 4 quest for Truex will begin from the front of the field at a 0.526-mile short track, where it has been incredibly difficult to pass on since the adaptation of the Next Gen car in the NASCAR Cup Series.
In the second round of qualifying, Truex turned a quick lap time of 20.112 sec. (94.153 mph) in his Auto-Owners Insurance machine.
Truex won the track position game, and he undoubtedly won the mental warfare battle of the weekend. However, Truex has to remember that he started from the pole a weekend ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and after an engine failure, he heads into this weekend’s race 17 points below the Playoffs cutline. There’s more to a successful weekend than qualifying, but qualifying on the pole definitely gives him a big advantage heading into the race on Sunday.
Truex edged out his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ty Gibbs for the pole position by just 0.008 sec. Gibbs was in search of his first-career pole. That search will have to extend at least another week, as the rookie came up just shy in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.
Chase Briscoe will start from the third position alongside Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin enters the weekend in the exact same situation as Truex, as they both sit 17 points behind the cutline after issues in Homestead. Hamlin expressed confidence heading into the weekend on his podcast Actions Detrimental, and he backed up that confidence with a solid showing in practice and qualifying.
Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Preece, and Brad Keselowski make up the remainder of the top-10 starters for Sunday’s race.
While Larson and Bell are locked into the Championship 4, there are still two spots that are undecided and six drivers will battle it out over 500 laps on Sunday in an effort to battle for the championship in Phoenix.
Truex (1st), Hamlin (4th), Ryan Blaney (11th), William Byron (16th), Chris Buescher (18th), and Tyler Reddick (19th) are the drivers that will vy for the final two spots in the Championship 4.
Reddick, who is the lowest starter of any of the eight Playoff drivers, actually spun on his second qualifying lap in the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota Camry, however, he was able to avoid any damage in the spin.
Chase Elliott also has Playoff implications on the line this weekend as his No. 9 team is still battling for the Owner’s Championship. Elliott, who will need a win to get the No. 9 team into the Owners Championship 4, will start from the 14th position on Sunday.