Martinsville qualifying rained out, Larson to start from pole

Kyle Larson will start out front again this week.

This time, Larson’s pole position for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway won’t come because of speed, but rather his performance over the first five races of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Rain washed out qualifying at Martinsville on Friday, and Sunday’s field was set primarily by car owner points, which puts series points leader Larson on the pole and lined up alongside Chase Elliott.

Larson has been on fire to start the season, finishing 12th in the Daytona 500 followed by three consecutive runner-up finishes before he won the pole and the race last weekend at Auto Club Speedway in California.

He is now firmly locked in the NASCAR playoffs this season and still plenty of time left in the regular season to earn additional playoff points that could give him a large advantage toward capturing his first series championship later this year.

The top starting position is a coup of sorts for Larson, who has never started better than ninth at the short track in six previous races. His best finish on the track is third in last season’s spring race.

“I’m glad to have a 29-point lead coming into Martinsville because this is my worst race track we go to, probably, even though we ran well last year. I’ve gotten better at it each time, but it’s still not a track where I’m extremely comfortable,” Larson said.

“I can go fast in qualifying or early on tires, but I struggle at saving my stuff. I’ve got to get better at that. If we can get a top 5 or top 10 here, that would be a huge success. We finished third last year. You never know.”

Martin Truex Jr. will line up third Sunday, followed by Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

The rest of the Top 10: Jamie McMurray, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.