March 31, 2017
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – For the second straight week, Kyle Larson will start on the pole for a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event.
He can only hope the result of the race is the same, too.
Last week, Larson won the pole at Auto Club Speedway and went on to win last Sunday’s race at the two-mile track.
On Friday, when rain washed out time trials at Martinsville Speedway, Larson earned the top starting spot for Sunday’s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET on FS1) on the basis of owner points. However, Larson will have to overcome his own history at the .526-mile track.
True, Larson finished third in the Martinsville spring race a year ago, but that was likely an aberration. In six career starts his average result there is 22.5, with no other top 10s.
“It definitely helps to start up front,” said Larson, the only driver to earn points in the first two stages of all five races this season. “I think this will be my most difficult track probably to earn stage points in each of the stages, just because it’s not a track that suits me that well.
“This is the toughest track for me, so it’s cool to be the only guy that has made points every stage. I think the stage points are a big deal to gain points and help point your way to the playoffs if need be. So, yeah, it’s been nice to run so strong early in the year, especially all throughout the race because, like I said, those stage points have turned out to be really big and important.”
Chase Elliott, second to Larson in the series standings will start on the outside of the front row, putting two drivers with dubious results at Martinsville ahead of speed horses Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano in third through fifth, respectively.
“I’m working through a lot of race tracks, for sure,” Elliott said. “Martinsville and Sonoma are, to me, the two that I feel like I need to work on the most. That’s not to say there’s not other places I need to work on. But I think Martinsville and Sonoma are the two places that seemed to give me the most troubles last year.
“So, I’m just trying to work through that. I think some of the things you see here at Martinsville are some of the same things you see at Sonoma, with how tight the corners are and how slow some parts of the race track are. So I think there’s some similarities there; and hopefully, if one can be corrected, the other one will come along with it.”
Logano has won three of the last four contested poles at NASCAR’s oldest track.
Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will take the green flag from positions six through 10 on the grid, respectively.