April 15, 2023
Ryan Preece secures first career Cup Series pole at Martinsville
By Staff Report - NASCAR.com
For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Ryan Preece will lead the field to green in his 124th start for Sunday’s NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Preece’s blazing speed of 94.780 mph in Saturday’s final round was the one and only lap to break 20 seconds around the 0.526-mile short track.
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“I was fighting loose that first lap,” Preece said with a smile, adding, “It’s a pole. Not a race.
“So I guess from a company standpoint, it makes us all very optimistic for tomorrow, and can to just be smart and we can have good days. It certainly shows that our short track program is really good, and I know our superspeedway program has been extremely good too, and we’ll keep working on that.”
Of note, Preece has won a pole in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series – and he won both those races (at Iowa in 2017 and at Nashville in 2022, respectively).
Daniel Suárez will join Preece on the front row after putting down a lap of 94.298 mph.
Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe locked out Row 2 as both earned their best starts of the 2023 season. Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five in qualifying.
An impressive showing in practice rolled into qualifying for Tyler Reddick as he starts sixth on Sunday, and all four Stewart-Haas Racing Fords will start inside the top 10 as Kevin Harvick was seventh fastest. Last year’s spring Martinsville winner William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher completed the top 10.
Many heavy hitters were left out of the pole round in Saturday evening’s qualifying session. In his return to Cup Series action after six weeks away due to injury, Chase Elliott will roll off 24th in Sunday’s race.
“Felt pretty good, but abysmal qualifying lap and I can’t really blame my leg on that one,” Elliott said. “I had a pretty good first lap and then really messed up in [Turn] two on the second one. Judging off of practice, starting in the back is going to be a lot of fun, looking forward to that in the ole’ NAPA Chevy.”
Of his comfort level, Elliott said, “I feel fine in the car. My entire practice run, I felt fine, and once you kind of get out there on the track and start focusing on the little things that you need to be doing in your car, some of that goes away, so that’s a good thing. My qualifying lap wasn’t because of that, just a poor effort.”
Hendrick Motorsports will see three of their Chevrolets start outside the top 15 as Kyle Larson was 19th fastest in qualifying, and Alex Bowman’s qualifying effort was only good enough for 23rd.
Christopher Bell, the Bristol Dirt Race winner and most recent winner at Martinsville, will have a lot of work to do Sunday as he starts 22nd.
After showing good pace in practice, Ross Chastain had a hot-lap run he’d like to forget as he will start toward the rear in 34th.
Read more of this article at www.nascar.com
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