Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth couldn’t have asked for a better scenario than rain washing out qualifying for today’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Edwards had never qualified better than seventh on the 0.526-mile oval, and Kenseth had never qualified better than 14th before weather handed them the front-row spots Saturday.
“Qualifying, I think, is one of the most important parts of this race and it’s no secret that’s been a tough thing for me and Matt as well, so I think it’s best-case for us that we get to start on the front row, and even better is the pit stall selection,” Edwards said.
“I think that’s gonna last all day no matter how much we have to work on the car.”
With only four races left in the season, and a lead of just 14 points over Kenseth, 18 over Brad Keselowski and 19 over Tony Stewart, Edwards will take all the help he can get. He has four top-10 finishes in his last seven starts at the oldest track in the series, while Kenseth has seven top 10s in 23 starts. Neither has won here, while some of the other contenders have.
Stewart has won twice, but not since 2006, and five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is 50 points off the lead, has been to Victory Lane six times, last in 2009.
Of course, apart from being able to select the pit stall at the front of pit road, giving him unimpeded access back onto the track, the other contenders will start up front, too.
“It almost takes qualifying out of the equation,” Edwards said.
The racing will be another matter entirely, and when the teams finally got onto the track Saturday for their only practice session before the race, Johnson was third fastest, while Kenseth was 24th and Edwards 29th. On runs of 10 consecutive laps, Johnson’s speed of 95.322 mph was well faster than Kenseth (29th, 93.953 mph) and Edwards (30th, 93,851 mph).
Hamlin wins Trucks race
Denny Hamlin ducked inside points leader Austin Dillon and four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. after a restart with 14 laps to go and went on to win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Hamlin’s first victory in the series, in a truck owned by Kyle Busch, made him the 23rd driver to win a race in each of NASCAR’s three national series.
Hornaday, seeking his fifth series championship, finished second and Dillon was third. He remained the points leader – by 11 over James Buescher and 15 over Hornaday and Johnny Sauter with two races remaining.