Pole at Kansas nets big gain at Martinsville for Martin Truex Jr.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Martin Truex Jr. already has an advantage over the rest of his competition in the semifinal round of eight in the NASCAR playoffs.

Truex will have the best pit stall, the one closest to pit out near Turn 2, for the opening semifinal-round race this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Because qualifying is at 12:05 p.m. Sunday at Martinsville and the race follows at 3 p.m., NASCAR opted to use qualifying results from Kansas to determine the pit-road selection order for Martinsville.

That means Truex, who won the pole for the race at Kansas, gets the first choice of pit stall at Martinsville.

As he celebrated his pole win Friday, his team was just as excited about what it meant for Martinsville as it was for having the fastest car at Kansas.

In addition to being able to speed out of the pit stall without having a car in front of him and not having to worry about speeding (because there is not enough time to get up to beyond pit-road speed), a crew chief and driver can gauge how fast to come off pit road to make sure they get an inside row on the restart.

"The crew chief being able to see all the other cars come and try to get you on the bottom lane for restarts is pretty huge," Truex said.

"We've seen that come into play there. That's the best spot to make that happen. But aside from that, just getting a clean entry into your pit stall [if leading] and then a clean exit."

The narrow Martinsville pit road often results in damaged fenders for at least a driver or two during the race.

"We've seen crashes happen there trying to get out of your box," Truex said. "Guys two-[wide], three-wide, can't fit.

"It's a very tight pit road, so just having that clean out I think is a huge deal getting to your pit stall and then having that clean out is a big deal. We'll see if it works out. Hopefully it'll be an advantage. It typically seems like it's just a fast amount of time on pit road when the guys have first box."

NASCAR has used the previous week to determine pit-stall selection in the Xfinity Series all season so there was no mad scramble after qualifying. It is using the policy for the three Cup races where qualifying and the race are on the same day.

Martinsville is the only one in the playoffs with this format.

"For us, it's bigger for next week in a way," Truex crew chief Cole Pearn said of the pole at Kansas. "This doesn't hurt by any means. For Martinsville, for sure, we'll take it."

While Truex will get the first pit stall, the other eight drivers in the semifinal round will look for the best stalls possible, most likely near an opening.

After Truex, playoff driver Kevin Harvick will pick second. The other playoff drivers and their spots in the pit-selection order will be Denny Hamlin (fourth), Kyle Busch (seventh), Brad Keselowski (10th), Jimmie Johnson (12th), Chase Elliott (14th) and Ryan Blaney (40th).

"I would say it's probably the biggest advantage of any track we go to, to have it there," Truex said. "We've already been working hard on Martinsville and that's certainly going to help us."

Xfinity Series: JR Motorsports does what it needs

The three JR Motorsports drivers remaining in the playoffs entered Kansas at 1-2-3 in the standings, and while they changed positions, JR drivers still left 1-2-3.

Justin Allgaier overtook William Byron for the top spot in the standings thanks to earning six more stage points than Byron during the race. Byron finished fourth, Allgaier fifth and Elliott Sadler seventh.

Allgaier has a 33-point cushion on fifth, Byron has a 31-point cushion and Sadler has a 22-point edge. If they can continue to run in the top 10 and earn stage points in upcoming races at Texas and Phoenix, they should advance and leave the five remaining drivers -- Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft, Ryan Reed, Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer are separated by a total of eight points -- battling for the final spot in the Homestead finale.

"We can carry that momentum into the next racetrack," Byron said.

Camping World Truck Series: Spec engine coming

NASCAR is expected to go with an optional spec engine for teams in the series next year. Johnny Sauter did an hourlong test with the engine following the Oct. 14 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The engines are built by Ilmor and are expected to cost teams less money than getting engines from one of the major sources -- Joe Gibbs Racing Engines, ECR Engines, Roush Yates Engines or Hendrick Motorsports.

Toyota seems to be the manufacturer most reluctant to go the route of the spec engine. That is probably because it appears to spend more in the series than other manufacturers.

"They're trying to make it more affordable for all the owners," said Kyle Busch, who owns the Toyota-backed Kyle Busch Motorsports. "I guess I appreciate that. So, if it comes to where it's a necessity that we have to run it, we have to make that decision at a later time.

"Right now, we're sticking with our guns, what we've been able to do, and that is to maintain our identity with a Toyota body and a Toyota engine."