RIDGEWAY, Va. – On his final lap – the final lap of qualifying Saturday afternoon – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Preece topped the competition to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series Busch pole award with a lap of 94.779 mph in his No. 41 SHR Ford at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The 32-year old Connecticut driver Preece is the 14th driver to notch his first pole position at the .526-mile Virginia track. He’ll start alongside Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez on the front row for Sunday’s NOCO 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Suárez and Preece’s SHR teammate Aric Almirola turned the exact same lap time – down to a thousandth of a second (20.081), but Suárez got the front row start by virtue of team points.
“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).
“Hopefully I can do a good job and keep those statistics going.”
Almirola will start on the second row alongside his Stewart-Haas teammate Chase Briscoe – all four SHR cars advanced to the final round of qualifying. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick will start on the third row, followed by SHR’s Kevin Harvick and defending race winner, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron. 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher round out the top 10.
As with Stewart-Haas, the 23XI Racing team batted a thousand in qualifying – pushing both its cars into the final round.
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott will roll off 24th in his first race back from injury. The former Martinsville winner broke his leg six weeks ago and is marking his return to the seat of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend.
“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.’’
The current NASCAR Cup Series championship leader Christopher Bell will roll off 22nd in the No. 20 JGR Toyota. His teammate, Ty Gibbs was the fastest rookie, qualifying 12th in the No. 54 JGR Toyota.
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – NOCO 400
Saturday, April 15, 2023
- (41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 94.780 mph.
- (99) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 94.298 mph.
- (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 94.298 mph.
- (14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 94.153 mph.
- (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 94.120 mph.
- (45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 94.078 mph.
- (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 93.975 mph.
- (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 93.952 mph.
- (23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 93.896 mph.
- (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 93.784 mph.
- (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 93.617 mph.
- (54) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 93.594 mph.
- (38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 93.433 mph.
- (16) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 93.295 mph.
- (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 93.262 mph.
- (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 93.249 mph.
- (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 93.161 mph.
- (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 93.038 mph.
- (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 93.024 mph.
- (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 92.997 mph.
- (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 92.928 mph.
- (20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 92.906 mph.
- (48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 92.906 mph.
- (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 92.896 mph.
- (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 92.851 mph.
- (31) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 92.846 mph.
- (7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 92.787 mph.
- (43) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 92.783 mph.
- (42) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 92.511 mph.
- (78) Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 92.470 mph.
- (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 92.339 mph.
- (21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 92.339 mph.
- (51) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 92.052 mph.
- (1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 91.838 mph.
- (77) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 91.815 mph.
- (15) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 91.598 mph.
# denotes rookie driver.