MARTINSVILLE, VA (Sunday, April 02, 2017) — Qualifying for The Monster Energy NASCAC Cup Series STP 500 was washed out by persistent rain on Friday. Although track lighting was recently installed at the half-mile, weather conditions wouldn’t facilitate even a delayed night qualifying session.
The canceled qualifying event means the starting grid is set by current owner point standings. That puts Auto Club 400 winner Kyle Larson on the pole, with Chase Elliott alongside. Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne, respectively, round out the top five starting spots.
Larson and Elliott – both young in their careers and in general – have run well in 2017. Arguably, Larson has been on the hottest breakout streak of all five Cup Series winners this season. Already being the leader when the green flag falls should give the California native an advantage over drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, who both have outstanding records at Martinsville.
“I think it’ll be a good advantage,” Larson said of starting in the top spot. “Our race car was a little bit tight in practice, so we’ll work on that and hopefully be good.”
Adding to the value of track position is the benefit of pit stall selection.
“That number one pit stall will be big here. It seems like the number one pit stall here is as good as it gets for any race track we go to. I’m excited about that.”
Elliott has been admittedly perplexed by the tight corners and slight banking of the fast half-mile at Martinsville. He was upbeat about a front row starting position.
“Anytime I can do anything good at Martinsville is great for me.” Elliott said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle here and we’ll definitely take it. I think more than anything – have a nice pit pick – hopefully we can get our car dialed in tomorrow to try to stay there.”
Elliott has been a constant threat on short tracks since taking the seat in his family-owned Late Model ride late in the last decade, but feels that hasn’t translated well to the Martinsville short track in The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“I can’t say that I feel any better about Martinsville than I did [the first time he raced there]. It’s still a place I haven’t really got my head around yet…I think I’ve gotten better here since the first time we raced here a few years ago. I think the last race here was the most improved I’ve ever run here. It wasn’t great and we weren’t anywhere close to where the leaders were, but we were way better for me, so hopefully we can try to take that and get it a little better and just try to keep moving forward.
The STP 500 goes green just after 2PM Eastern. Live TV is on Fox Sports 1, with live radio on The Motor Racing Network and real-time information and updates directly from the race teams, driver representatives and more available at Z3Sports.com.