Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion, set a track record in winning the first qualifying session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville on Friday after turning a lap of 18.898 seconds. Even though Logano set a track record during the first session of knock-off qualifying, he will start the race in third position after finishing third in the final qualifying round.
When members of the media asked Logano about his prospects for winning, he commented, “I feel like our Shell/Pennzoil Ford has speed in it obviously. The guys were telling me that’s our sixth segment we’ve won in qualifying here and we only have one pole, so I’m winning the wrong ones and it’s really frustrating me. I’m a little mad about our second run there. I felt like we really had a shot at the pole, but, overall, I feel like for Sunday our car is decent. I think everyone is fighting forward drive, which eventually makes your entry really loose. That’s typical Martinsville practice. Your car is usually struggling for forward drive and then in the race it gets a little bit better as it rubbers in, but the track also loses a little bit of turn and gets a little tighter. So far it’s typical Martinsville, but I will say this new rules package has helped the car’s handling quite a bit. You may see a little bit of a different race because the cars are handling a little bit better and that obviously results in a track record as you saw today. So we’ve got a track record, but we don’t have a pole, so how does that work?”
With limited space in the infield at Martinsville Speedway and concerns of logistical chaos with the new qualifying format, Hamlin was asked if the qualifying session was cleaner than he expected and if people were more forgiving. He said, “I think everyone thought it was going to be a mess when we didn’t have cool down units, and everyone was going to be out there cooling down and then there’s no room to go around anybody, so that’s where I think that maybe came from. Now everyone just wants a clean lap. The sun wasn’t poking in or out—no one was thinking that way. Everyone was just, ‘Ok, what do we have to do to get out there and make a clean lap,’ and run the fastest you can that way, so I don’t think that came into play.”
When asked if he thinks the new qualifying format is having an effect on the outcome of the races on Sunday, Logano replied, “I think qualifying always has an effect on how the race turns out. Obviously, the pit stall is very important, especially here. It’s a dangerous pit road so you want to get a nice spot you can get in and out of, but obviously here it’s a slow pit road and you can make up a lot with timing line on pit road. For that reason alone it’s big, and that’s worth multiple spots throughout the race when you’re thinking about making a lot of pit stops. And then obviously qualifying is a big deal for starting position. Third is a good spot. I think it’s better than second because the inside lane usually goes here, especially at the beginning of the race, so we’ll try to level out there and try to lead some laps. We’ve got our car tuned in and when you’re up front the pressure and the sense of urgency of needing to pass cars is not there as much, and you’re able to save your tires. That’s a big deal when you’re here is able to save your tires for the long run and when you’re positioned towards the front of it allows you to do that. When you’re trying to pass cars and run underneath them and wearing your stuff out, you lose quite a bit of tire wear and eventually in the long run you’ll show that. So being able to start towards the front is an advantage for that reason, that you can save your stuff and be there for the long run. Hopefully, we keep that track position all day so we don’t get in that scenario where we have to push really hard and wear our stuff out.”
Searching for his first win at Martinsville Speedway and his first grandfather clock, Logano will lead Team Penske to the green for the STP 500 on Sunday at 1:00 pm local time.