MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Chase Elliott won the pole Friday for the Saturday night race at Martinsville Speedway.
The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion and current co-leader turned a fast lap at 96.151 mph in the new Next Gen cars to end co-leader Ryan Blaney’s string of three consecutive poles. Blaney qualified 12th.
Aric Almirola qualified second, followed by Cole Custer, James Buescher and William Byron, who won the Truck Series race at the track Thursday night.
Many drivers have noted that with the new car, each week presents a whole new set of set-up challenges, but Elliott said his Hendrick Motorsports team didn’t have this experience. Teams get just a short window to run practice laps and make adjustments to their cars, but Elliott said his car felt familiar.
“I think the overall feel here is pretty similar to what we did in the past,” he said. “It seems like (at) the shorter tracks, the cars are have a pretty similar sensation to what the last generation car had.”
NASCAR is in Week 2 of a three-week run at tracks shorter than a mile. It will finish the spree at Bristol Motor Speedway on dirt on Easter Sunday.
Limited practice time is how drivers in the top series got their starts.
“I’ve said this a lot, but at short tracks across the country, guys have five laps of hot laps. So, you know, we’re supposed to be at the top level of our sport here. So why do we need to practice for three hours a weekend?” he asked.
“So I think it’s cool. I like it.”