Larson gets pole as qualifying washed out at Martinsville


MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Things keep going right for Kyle Larson.

Hours after saying he hoped qualifying for Sunday’s April 2 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race would be rained out, he got his wish, giving him the pole position on a track where he has struggled.

“I think it will be a good advantage to start on the pole, get the jump and hopefully take care of my stuff early,” said Larson, the early season points leader.

With the lineup set by owner points because of the rain, Chase Elliott will start on the outside of the front row, with Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski in the second row. The rest of the top 10 includes Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Larson, who had three consecutive second-place finishes before winning last weekend at Fontana, California, posted the third-fastest time in Friday’s first practice session, trailing only former winners Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. That was after almost crashing his car early in the hour-long practice session.

“The braking was a little sketchy,” he said.

Since the series switched to stage racing this season, with points awarded to the front runners at the end of two predetermined distances during the race and then at the end, Larson has consistently earned points in every race, but he joked that he will need every advantage possible on the 0.526-mile oval.

“You never know. Our cars are so good right now, maybe we could contend for a win,” he said. “But I’d like for it to continue to rain today so I can start on the pole. But, we’ll see. Yeah, it’s a tough place and tough to complete 500 good laps here.”

Larson did finish third in this race a year ago, but said it was at least in part because the race was run in cold temperatures, which minimized tire wear during the race. Tire wear, brake preservation and patience are typically the three elements that make many drivers consider the oldest and shortest track also the trickiest.

He has company in his appreciation for the rain, too. It put Elliott, another driver who is still learning, on the front row as well.

“Any time I can do anything good at Martinsville, it’s great for me,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle here.”

By Hank Kurz Jr.

AP Sports Writer

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