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Qualifying rainout puts Martin Truex Jr. on Martinsville pole

Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr,. would have preferred to earn his third straight official pole on Saturday, but with rain forcing cancellation of STP 500 qualifying at Martinsville Speedway, Truex is happy to take the result.

With the field ordered according to owner points after the rainout, Truex will start from the top spot on the grid for the third straight week in Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on FS1), having won poles at both ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Though the Martinsville pole doesn't count in official statistics, it does have its perks. Truex will pit his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in the stall closest to the exit from pit road, a huge advantage in terms of potential track position.

"I would have liked to try to get three in a row, no doubt about," said Truex, who was fastest in both Saturday practices before the rain arrived. "I think we would have had a shot at it. We've qualified well here in the past. I'd say that qualifying is probably the strongest thing we've done on average here.

"I would have liked to try, for sure, but that's the way it goes. You can't change the weather. I was actually really happy to get both practices in, because earlier today it looked really bad... So it was nice to get that time on the track and let everybody get their full amount of practice in and hopefully get ready for Sunday."

Kyle Busch, whose No. 18 Toyota is second in owner points, will line up next to Truex on the front row. With temperatures at race time expected to be in the low 40s, Busch expects the track to change less from start to finish than it usually does.

"I feel the colder it is, the less rubber does go down," Busch said. "I also think this tire is different. It did put down a little rubber today, even for as cold as it was. I feel that there will be some rubber that goes down tomorrow, but I don't think it will be as dark as it could be, if it were warmer outside.

"We'll keep notice on that, as far as the track changing and what things are happening to make sure we keep up with it."

Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will line up side-by-side on the second row in third and fourth, respectively, for the sixth points race of the season. Jimmie Johnson, whose nine wins at the track are most among active drivers, will start 18th.

--- NASCAR Wire Service ---