NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Logano Nabs Third Straight Martinsville Pole

Skies were cloudy at Martinsville Speedway, but the rain stayed away long enough for sunshine to rain down on young Joey Logano. Logano, still winless this season for Team Penske took the pole for Sunday’s STP 500 in his No. 22 Ford. Logano led all three rounds of qualifying, posting a lap speed of 97.043 MPH to take the pole, his first of 2016 and the 15th of his career.  It was the first time a driver has led all three rounds of qualifying at Martinsville, yet another sign the youngster is ready to break through here.  Logano, winless in 14 career starts here has won three consecutive poles at the speedway, becoming the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 2003-’04 to accomplish the feat.

Kasey Kahne waited out the clock, making his last-minute run count as he’ll start on the outside of the front row Sunday. Brian Vickers, filling in for Tony Stewart in the No. 14, qualified third with Paul Menard fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.

AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott round out the top 10.  Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney were the final two drivers to qualify for the final round and will start 11th and 12th, respectively on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson, who leads all active drivers with eight wins at Martinsville, will start 24th. With 40 cars making the trek to Martinsville, every team will make the field for Sunday’s race.

The second-place start is a boost for Kahne, who has struggled mightily this season with an average finish of just 19.2.

“We’re not that far off,” Kahne said Friday.  “We’ve been an 8th-to-12th-place car, which is better than last year…it’s just up to our communication and what we do on Sunday.”

Kahne noted that he had a top-10 finish in his backup car at Martinsville in 2015 and that he feels this car is better than that one.

Logano has now qualified inside the top 10 in five of six Sprint Cup races in 2016. “Todd (Gordon) does a great job with this Shell/Pennzoil Ford.  I get to drive this thing and it’s so much fun every time we come here to Martinsville, especially in qualifying,” said Logano after his lap.

However, Logano acknowledged that he has yet to turn one of his Martinsville poles into a win.  “We’ve got to figure out the race part.  We haven’t got that grandfather clock yet…I’m excited.  This is a nice little fire to get us going.”

2016 STP 500 Starting Lineup

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