Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. picked up his first pole of the season at ISM Raceway with a flyer in the final minutes of qualifying.
Truex went to the top of the leaderboard at 136.945mph with Kyle Larson qualifying second at 136.643mph. Larson had been fastest in Friday’s only practice session.
The pole is Truex’s second at ISM; his previous occurring in 2009. It is the 16th pole of his career.
“You’re always committed and hoping it’ll stick,” he said. “I did get a little loose there [in Turn 3] and thought for a second maybe I screwed it up, but I caught the brake and caught the front grip just in time to keep it off of that seam in the middle of the corner and was able to get a good shot off.
“Hats off to the guys, they’ve done a great job today. We had a good gameplan coming here – we’ve qualified well here in the past, but we’ve been kind of searching for those last couple of spots. We were fifth here in the fall and that was about all we could do. Just a good game plan, good execution by everybody and definitely a fun day today.”
Rounding out the top five were Chase Elliott (136.126mph), Alex Bowman (136.080mph), and Joey Logano (135.947mph).
The rest of the top 10 were Denny Hamlin (135.900mph), Kyle Busch (135.870mph), Jamie McMurray (135.864mph), Erik Jones (135.829mph) and Kevin Harvick (135.522mph).
Defending race winner Ryan Newman will start 13th. Jimmie Johnson was fastest in the first round but eliminated in the second round of qualifying. Johnson will start 17th.
“I kind of look back to the amount of time we had in practice today,” said Johnson, who served a 30-minute hold in the opening session because of failing pre-race inspection three times last weekend.
“I never had a chance to go out on scuff tires and see what adjustments we need to make. I had two runs on stickers in practice and we clearly dialed that part of the car in, and it would have been nice to have a scuff run to go out and understand exactly what to do. Very optimistic with the speed in the car that first round and look forward to a full practice session or two tomorrow.”
Eliminated after the first 20-minute round was Brad Keselowski, who will start 25th, as well as Kasey Kahne in 26th and Darrell Wallace Jr. in 27th.
In his first laps on track, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 29th. Stenhouse crashed in Friday’s opening practice session and is in his backup car. Because he’s in a backup car, however, Stenhouse will move to the rear of the field for the start of Sunday’s race.
Jeffrey Earnhardt brought out the caution in the first round when he slammed the wall in Turn 3. Earnhardt didn’t complete a lap and will start last in the 37-car field.
NEXT UP: Practice at 12:05 p.m. Saturday.