Martin Truex Jr. wins pole for Charlotte’s NASCAR race


CONCORD, N.C. (AP) Martin Truex Jr. put himself in good position for another strong showing at the Coca-Cola 600, a race he thought he should have won last year.

Truex turned a lap of 192.328 to grab the pole away from Joey Logano on his final lap of qualifying Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Logano, who had the top time in the first two rounds, will start alongside Truex on the front row Sunday night in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

“We put it all together when it counted,” Truex said.

Truex was running strong last year at the Coca-Cola 600, but Carl Edwards stayed on the track rather than pit and won, getting 62 laps out of his final tank of gas to win the 400-lap race.

It was a disappointing outcome for Truex, who wound up finishing fifth in 2015.

“I really thought we were going to go to victory lane but we lost on fuel mileage,” Truex said.

Truex said he’s happy with how he’s been running this season and believes he had a good chance to make up for last season’s disappointment.

It is Truex’s second pole in the last three Sprint Cup races. He also started first at Kansas.

He has yet to win this season.

And he knows Logano will be tough to beat.

Logano has won the last two races at Charlotte, including the $1 million All-Star race on Saturday night. He also won at the track in October.

“My confidence is high,” Logano said. “The momentum is rolling. Maybe some of these rule changes have fallen into our hands as a team, or maybe in my lap as a driver. Overall it is working.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth. Greg Biffle was sixth-fastest in qualifying and Jimmie Johnson seventh. Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick will start eighth, followed by Edwards and Trevor Bayne.

TOUGH QUALIFYING: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought a new car to CMS, continued to struggle in qualifying and failed to make it out of the first round. He will start 25th.

“We weren’t good when we unloaded and we weren’t able to get it going,” Earnhardt said.

Matt Kenseth also struggled in qualifying and will start 27th.

FAILED INSPECTIONS: NASCAR announced Thursday night that Johnson, Earnhardt and Aric Almirola all received their fourth warnings this season for failing pre-qualifying inspections. They will be given the three final pit stalls for Sunday night’s race.

However, it does not affect where the drivers start the race.

HAMLIN CONSISTENT: On the other hand, Hamlin has been terrific in qualifying all year, reaching the final round in every race this season.

THE CHAMP: Edwards called last year’s win at CMS the biggest of his career.

“It’s still surreal to be coming here as the defending champion,” Edwards said. “There was a lot of pressure at the time last year and (after the win) the pressure came off.”

Edwards already has two victories on the Sprint Cup circuit this season and should be a major factor on Sunday night.

MAKES YOU SAY, `NEWMAN!’: Ryan Newman has endured a surprisingly inconsistent season. He has three top 10s, but his average finish in the other nine races is 20th overall. He will start 14th.

REMEMBERING: Each of the drivers will have the name of a fallen soldier written on their car on Sunday night as part of NASCAR’s Memorial Day weekend celebrations. “The freedoms and liberties we enjoy make this the greatest country in the world,” Edwards said.

TONY’s LAST RUN: This will be Tony Stewart’s final chance to win the Coca-Cola 600, something he’s never been able to accomplish in his career. Stewart will start 21st.

The annual running of the Coca-Cola 600 will be Sunday night, starting at 5 o’clock, from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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