NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
            === Busch tops teammate Hamlin for Martinsville pole ===
 
 Martinsville,  VA (SportsNetwork.com)  - Kyle Busch won Friday's qualifying at
 Martinsville  Speedway,  while his teammate,  Denny Hamlin, finished second to
 give Joe Gibbs Racing the front starting row for Sunday's STP 500.
 
 Busch,  who won last  Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in
 Fontana,  Calif., made  a lap around this 0.526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval at
 99.674  mph during the second and final round of qualifying. The driver of the
 No. 18 JGR Toyota claimed his 14th career pole in the series.
 
 "What  do you know?  It's Martinsville, and we get to start on the pole," said
 Busch,  who  scored his  first pole in  19 starts at  this track. "It's pretty
 cool. There's always a first for everything, I guess."
 
 Busch  has now won a pole in NASCAR's top series in seven consecutive seasons.
 He  has yet to win a Cup race at Martinsville. His best finish here is second,
 which came in October 2012.
 
 "It's  fun  to start  up front, and  it makes  things a heck  of a lot easier,
 that's for sure," Busch added.
 
 Hamlin,  who drives  the No. 11 Toyota  for JGR, qualified on the outside pole
 five  days  after he  was forced to  miss the race  in Southern California for
 medical  reasons. He had a small piece of metal in his eye, which affected his
 vision  and prevented  him from racing there. Hamlin was taken to the hospital
 where  doctors removed  the sliver  of metal  from his  eye. He  was medically
 cleared  to race  at Martinsville after having a series of evaluations earlier
 this week in North Carolina.
 
 Earlier  in the  day, Hamlin  topped the  speed/time charts  in practice.  The
 Chesterfield,  Va.  native was the  only driver who topped  the 100 mph in the
 lone  session.  His lap at  99.548 in round 2  of qualifying was 0.024 seconds
 behind Busch.
 
 "It  was a solid qualifying effort for us," Hamlin said. "I kind of knew while
 I  was  running  the  lap  [in  round 2]  that  it  wasn't  a  pole-type  lap.
 Surprisingly, it ended up being close. Just fought loose most of the time. The
 track  was  pretty free.  It  was  tough. These  cars  are  putting down  more
 horsepower  than they ever  have, so it's harder and harder to get your car to
 come off of the corner. And that's what we fought through the two sessions."
 
 Joey Logano set a new track qualifying record at Martinsville when he turned a
 lap  at  100.201 mph during round  1. Logano's best  lap in round 2 was 99.428
 mph,  which  placed him third  on the starting  grid. Hamlin held the previous
 track qualifying record at 99.595 mph, set last October.
 
 "I'm  a little  mad about our second  run there," Logano said. "I felt like we
 really  had a shot at the pole, but overall, I feel like our car is decent for
 Sunday."
 
 Jimmie  Johnson, the  six-time and  defending Sprint  Cup champion,  qualified
 fourth,  while his  Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, took the fifth
 spot.  Both  drivers have  eight wins  each at  Martinsville. Johnson won last
 year's  spring race  here, and  Gordon took  the checkered  flag for  the fall
 event.
 
 Matt  Kenseth,  Tony Stewart, Carl  Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Danica Patrick
 qualified  sixth through 10th, respectively. Patrick improved significantly in
 qualifying after she had placed 29th on the charts in practice.
 
 "Just  got to expect the unexpected, I guess," Patrick said. "I think that our
 practice  started  off a little  bit rough, because you  go out with all those
 cars  out on the  track. I was following another car, and he was not coming up
 to speed and ended up getting passed by 15 cars in the first five laps. You're
 just not really getting up to speed and in a rhythm, so we didn't really put a
 lap in at the beginning.
 
 "And  then in our qualifying runs, I feel like we improved a lot, but we still
 needed  something.  That was something [crew  chief] Tony [Gibson] gave me for
 qualifying. That is the difference."
 
 Patrick  had her best qualifying finish at a non-restrictor-plate track in her
 Sprint  Cup  career. She won the  pole for the  2013 Daytona 500, but her best
 qualifying  result on  a track other than Daytona and Talladega had been 21st,
 which  occurred  in  last year's  Atlanta  race  and  the  fall event  at  New
 Hampshire.
 
 After  qualifying either  first or  second in  the previous  four races,  Brad
 Keselowski failed to make it into the second round at Martinsville. Keselowski
 placed 14th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also struggled in qualifying with a 26th-place
 finish.
 
 David  Reutimann was  the only driver who failed to qualify for Sunday's race,
 which is scheduled to start just after 1 p.m. ET.
 
 03/28 19:46:44 ET

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