NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup is down to the Round of 8, which will commence with the Goody's Fast Relief 500 from Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on Sunday.
On Friday afternoon, Martin Truex Jr. took the pole in qualifying for the second straight week—one week after he was eliminated from the Chase, via NASCAR:
He'll lead a field that looks like this:
|Goody's Fast Relief 500 Qualifying Results|
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||19.282|
|39||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||20.362|
|*Denotes Chase driver|
He edged Chase drivers Joey Logano (by 0.008 seconds) and Jimmie Johnson (0.032 seconds), who will start second and third, respectively.
Even if he won't win the Chase this year, Truex did set his sights on the grandfather clock awarded each year to the winner at Martinsville, via Furniture Row Racing:
Martinsville was not going to yield a lot of speed; however, the tight conditions did result in close qualifying times that left a thin margin between the difference of a solid starting place and a subpar one.
On a track nicknamed "The Paperclip," Martinsville is just a little over a half-mile with virtually no banking on its narrow turns.
That forced drivers to take tight turns at speeds as low as 70 mph on a cement track that didn't provide the most grip, so wheels were hopping early. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. experienced it the hard way as he spun out, via NASCAR:
Austin Dillon didn't fare much better:
The eight Chase drivers remaining managed to make it past the first round of cuts unscathed, but three went down in the second.
Kurt Busch will start in 23rd and in the worst position of the remaining postseason drivers. Kevin Harvick nabbed the 20th spot, and fourth-place Matt Kenseth qualified for 17th.
For the rest of the Chase drivers, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch will start together at seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.
With the Chase standings knotted at 4,000 points apiece for each of the final eight drivers, securing a good starting spot for the first race of the Round of 8 was imperative.
Given the tight quarters on the track, there is going to be plenty of bumping and grinding come Sunday, which will create tough passing conditions for drivers who are desperate to move up the field.