It's been a good week for Kyle Busch. On Sunday, he won the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif. Five days later, he's sitting on the pole for the STP 500 in Martinsville, Va.
The 28-year-old posted a speed of 99.674 miles per hour and a time of 18.998 seconds to narrowly beat out Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. It's the 14th pole of Busch's career and his first at Martinsville Speedway:
JGR saluted their all-conquering drivers:
Prior to Sunday, 2014 had been solid, if unspectacular for Busch. He finished 19th at the Daytona 500 and then earned the ninth spot in Phoenix and the 11th in Las Vegas. A 29th-place finish at the Food City 500 was a major disappointment.
Now, though, it appears Busch has kick-started his campaign. A win and a pole in the same week gives him some much-needed momentum going forward.
Here's how the rest of the top 12 finished Friday, per NASCAR.com:
|STP 500 Qualifying Results|
|Pos.||Driver||Best Speed||Best Time|
Really, though, Busch should count himself a bit lucky to have finished on the pole. Technically speaking, he wasn't the fastest driver on the day. Joey Logano set a course record at 18.898 seconds, per Team Penske:
However, NASCAR's now labyrinthine qualifying structure meant that Logano was merely the fastest in the first qualifying round. That only earned him a spot in the 12-driver field for the second session, which ultimately decides the pole-sitter.
The seemingly contradictory nature of the situation wasn't lost on Busch, per USA Today's Nate Ryan:
Logano can at least take solace in the fact that he's one of two drivers who have qualified for the final round in all five of the races with the new qualifying structure, per NASCAR Stats:
Points leader Carl Edwards will start in eighth. That should be of help to somebody who's had a less-than-stellar record at Martinsville. Edwards has never won in 19 tries, as outlined by DriverAverages.com. Third is his highest finish, and that was back in 2008.
Matt Kenseth had a similarly poor record, until he finished runner-up last October. That's something Edwards is hoping to emulate on Sunday, per Fox Sports' Jared Turner:
Seeing what Matt Kenseth was able to do, that makes me think there's hope for me, but this place is so tough. I've seen guys run in cars that were fast, I've seen guys practice other guys' cars and still have trouble, so it appears it's a combination. I feel like you have to have the car perfect and then there is some timing.
Bobby Hamilton spent some time with me here one time and he talked to me a lot about the way he drove around and the rhythm that he had. I've had a couple flashes where we've run really well, but it's been maybe one time I've had the car where I felt like I was making progress and got this thing figured."
With Dale Earnhardt Jr. only a point back and Brad Keselowski four points off Edwards, there's a good chance somebody else will be sitting atop the points standings come Monday.
Both Earnhardt and Keselowski will have their work cut out for them, though, as No. 88 is all the way down at 26th, while Keselowski has a slightly more advantageous starting position of 14th.
Martinsville is the shortest track on the Sprint Cup circuit at 0.526 miles. As a result, working your way up the pack is extremely difficult to do, putting a premium on doing well in qualifying.
Busch is in a great position for Sunday's race and very well may walk away with his first win at the track.
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