Logano leads pack of Fords to front at Martinsville Speedway

Joey Logano drives during qualifying for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., Saturday, March 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Bell)

Joey Logano wins pole at Martinsville Speedway in strong session for Ford camp

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Joey Logano led a Ford sweep at Martinsville Speedway with another pole-winning run for Team Penske.

Logano turned a lap at 97.830 mph in Saturday qualifying to earn the top starting spot. His pole-winning run came roughly 90 minutes after Team Penske teammate Will Power won the pole for the IndyCar race in Austin, Texas.

Logano, who won at Martinsville last fall in a critical victory for his Cup Series title, will start Sunday from the pole for the fifth time in the last nine races.

"You just have to be so precise, and you're pushing yourself so hard down into the corners, and a mistake has such a big penalty when you get loose," Logano said. "And you're right on the edge of these tires, and if you go over that edge a little bit, it's the difference between qualifying first or eighth or ninth because the field is so close.

"It's awesome to get another pole here at Martinsville, and hopefully we can top it off with another win."

Aric Almirola qualified second for Stewart-Haas Racing, Penske driver Brad Keselowski was third and Kevin Harvick was fourth as Ford drivers took the top four qualifying positions.

Five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin qualified fifth in a Toyota for Sunday's race at the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit. William Byron was sixth and the highest-qualifying Chevrolet driver.

Clint Bowyer, winner of the spring race at Martinsville last year, qualified 11th and was disappointed after pacing Saturday morning's practice session.

"That was not very good. We need to be better," he said. "I'm not very good at qualifying here."

Kyle Busch won the Truck Series race — his third win in three truck events this season — before the qualifying session began, but the success did not carry into his Cup lap. The winner of the last two Cup races will start 14th at Martinsville as he attempts to sweep the weekend.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the first driver to fall afoul of NASCAR's new policy of enforcing speeding on pit road during qualifying. His time was disallowed for speeding on pit road and he will start 25th.

Corey LaJoie and Cody Ware did not make qualifying attempts after wrecking their primary cars in earlier practice sessions.

Logano won at Martinsville last fall when he used his bumper to move Martin Truex Jr. out of his way in the final turn. The aggressive move earned Logano a spot in NASCAR's championship race. He claimed his first Cup title three weeks later.

Truex was angered by the move, but Logano and most of his competitors understand that being aggressive at Martinsville is typically the only way to victory lane.

"I gave the old bump-and-run," Logano said. "I think there's a fine line. You don't want to straight out bump somebody on purpose, but when it comes down to the end of the race like that and there's that much on the line — that was our shot to win a championship — I think every driver has a line that they are OK with and that you can go to sleep at the end of the night and say, 'I did what I had to do and I'm all right with it.'"

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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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