Kasey Kahne became the first repeat pole winner of 2012 with his performance in Saturday’s Sprint Cup qualifying session for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Kahne, who has been plagued by bad luck and despite his two poles sits 27th in driver points, turned a lap around the .529-mile oval in 19.496 seconds for a top speed of 97.128 mph. Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.
The field was so competitive that the top 38 cars were separated by less than half a second.
Time trials were not drama free, however. The No. 37 of Tony Raines initially made the event on speed, which would have sent JJ Yeley and the No. 49 home, but Raines’s car failed post-qualifying inspection, measuring too low, and his time was disallowed. Because the No. 37 was not in the Top 35 in car owner points, they were not guaranteed a starting spot. As a result, Yeley will make the field on Sunday, starting 43rd.
Also of note: Harvick, starting second, is making his 400th Cup start this weekend. Harvick won this race a year ago as Hendrick Motorsports continues its quest for its 200th Cup victory.
In addition to Kahne on the pole, HMS drivers in the field include Jeff Gordon (starting ninth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (starting 14th) and Jimmie Johnson (starting 22nd). Among them, Gordon has seven Martinsville wins and Johnson six. Earnhardt and Kahne have never won at Martinsville, though Earnhardt finished second in the 2011 spring race. Defending Cup champion and winner of last fall’s Martinsville event, Tony Stewart starts 15th.
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