By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. crashed a Ford party on Thursday night, winning the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX).
With his team making adjustments to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota throughout the qualifying session, Truex saved his best lap for the round that counted, covering the 1.5-mile distance in 28.077 seconds (192.328 mph) to edge Team Penske Ford driver Joey Logano (192.007 mph) by .047 seconds for the top starting spot in NASCAR’s longest race.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Truex’s second of the season and the ninth of his career. Both of the New Jersey driver’s poles this year have come on 1.5-mile tracks, the previous one at Kansas Speedway earlier this month.
“We really had to work pretty hard for it today,” said Truex, whose lap in the final round of qualifying was .27 seconds faster than his fastest practice lap. “It was just one of those Charlotte deals where the track was continuously changing.
“We were just chasing the race track and changing the car and really never got it close to right until that last run. I’m really just proud of the effort and proud of all my guys for that. It feels good – 600 miles, that first pit stall (the pole winners prerogative)… We’re going to be on pit road a lot on Sunday night, and that’s certainly going to be an advantage.
“Hopefully, we can take advantage of it and make it work for us.”
Logano led both the first and second rounds but couldn’t match Truex’s top speed in the third and final session.
“I got a little bit tight landing in (Turn) 1 and then a little bit free off (the corner),” Logano said. “It wasn’t much. And then (Turns) 3 and 4, I actually thought was a pretty good corner.
“So I would say most of it was down in 1 and 2 – probably at landing and through the center is where I lost most of my momentum. It’s not much. Half-a-tenth of a second doesn’t take long.”
Logano was the best of the Ford drivers, who held three of the four top spots in the first round of knockout qualifying and swept the top four in the second. In the final round, Fords were second, third and fifth.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified third at 191.428 mph, followed by Denny Hamlin (191.388 mph) and Brad Keselowski (190.968 mph). Joining Stenhouse in the top 10 were his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle (sixth) and Trevor Bayne (10th), marking the first time since the April race at Texas in 2014 that three RFR cars have made the final round of knockout qualifying.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 25th after failing to advance past the first round by .014 seconds. Matt Kenseth (27th), Austin Dillon (28th) and Kasey Kahne (29th) also will have to come from deep in the field after disappointing efforts in time trials.
Kurt Busch, who topped the speed chart in opening practice with the fastest lap of the day (192.843 mph), will start 13th after failing to make the final round by .08 seconds.