Martinsville Cup qualifying: Chase Elliott wins pole

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Chase Elliott claimed pole position for Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Elliott’s lap of 96.151 miles per hour in his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was fastest among the 10 drivers that advanced to the final round of Friday’s qualifying session.

MORE: Martinsville Cup starting lineup

MORE: Martinsville Cup qualifying results

“It’s always good to get a good starting spot – obviously, Lap 400 tomorrow is what pays,” Elliott told Fox Sports after securing his first Cup pole since March 2020 at Phoenix Raceway – a span of 75 starts.

“The bigger thing, I think, than the starting spot itself is always the pit selection. Having that first pit stall, I think, is a really big deal and can lend you a lot of opportunity to gain spots on pit road.

“Hopefully, we can get this thing dialed in to be driving like we want in the second half of the race and be around to have a shot at it.”

Aric Almirola will start alongside Elliott on the front row Saturday at the historic half-mile. He qualified P2 with a lap of 95.641 mph in his No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

“Last week (at Richmond), I felt like going in the (final round) was a disadvantage because we hurried up to get back in line in the top 10 and so we were going out on hot tires,” Almirola told Fox Sports. “This week, I felt like it was an advantage to go in the second round just because you were going back out with warmer tires.

“It’s so cold here and the concrete surface is hard to get grip on when it’s cold, so I thought with warmer tires, that was a little bit of an advantage.”

Row 2 will include Cole Custer (95.598 mph) and Chris Buescher (95.395 mph). Behind them in Row 3 are William Byron (95.189 mph) and Kevin Harvick (94.960 mph).

Denny Hamlin, last week’s winner at Richmond and a five-time winner at Martinsville, qualified 25th.

A.J. Allmendinger was not allowed to qualify after his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet failed inspection three times. Allmendinger must also serve a pass-through penalty after the green flag Saturday. Additionally, No. 16 engineer Michael Brookes was ejected.

Green flag for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 is scheduled for Saturday at 7:58 p.m. ET. Coverage is on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.