There have been five different winners in as many Sprint Cup races to start the 2014 season.
Kyle Busch made certain Friday the streak remained intact in qualifying as well.
Busch was third fastest in the first round of knockout qualifying at Martinsville Speedway but posted the fastest average speed (99.674 mph) in the final round to claim the pole for Sunday’s STP 500.
“This feels good,” said Busch, who earned the 14th pole of his career and first at Martinsville. “We unloaded with a fast car and tried to dial it in as good as we could in race trim.
“The changes we made in between the two sessions really made a difference, and I picked up a little bit of speed in the second session. Hurray for me.”
Joey Logano actually set a track qualifying record (100.201 mph) in Round 1 of qualifying but ended up third fastest when the final group of 12 cars returned to the track. The previous record (99.595 mph) was set by Hamlin last fall.
Hamlin will start second, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Jeff Gordon fifth. Series points leader Carl Edwards will line up eighth.
Danica Patrick qualified 10th – her second top-10 start of her Cup career.
New version of Air Titan debuts
The next generation of Air Titan, NASCAR’s new track-drying technology, is making its debut this weekend at Martinsville.
Air Titan 2.0 is a more compact and more environmentally friendly version of its innovative predecessor, which has been used since last season.
The Air Titan 2.0 more than triples the blade capacity of the original version and can deliver 2.6 times more air volume at a speed of 568 mph.
With the combination of water removal and accelerated evaporation, NASCAR officials said the ultimate goal is to reduce track-drying time by 80 percent.
“The first phase of the Air Titan system has been an overwhelming success,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR’s vice president of innovation and racing development. “We will continue to innovate and develop the technology to further increase its efficiency and sustainability.”
New Hampshire hoping to add lights
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, confirmed Friday his track is seeking to host a night race for one of its two Cup series dates in the 2015 season.
Gappens hinted Thursday on Twitter that such a change was possible. The 1-mile paved oval in Loudon, N.H., currently hosts races in July and September and both are held on Sunday afternoon.
“Night racing requires an agreement from a number of stakeholders, and if we do it, we want to do it right and with community support,” Gappens said in a statement provided to the Observer. “A recent survey shows Loudon residents support lights, and it has been the top request from our fans for years.
“The first step is to get approval from NASCAR and NBC. We started dialogue in September, and I am awaiting an answer.”
Stewart’s scooter going up for auction
The Darrell Gwynn Foundation will auction a scooter donated by three-time Cup series champion Tony Stewart at the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Gala on April 10.
The scooter was used by Stewart at the track during the 2013 season after he sustained a leg injury in a racing accident. The winning bidder of the scooter also will receive a VIP NASCAR Experience to the Coke Zero 400 on July 3-5.
Stewart also will match the first $50,000 on the winning bid with all proceeds benefiting the Darrell Gwynn Foundation. The foundation supports people with paralysis and helps to prevent spinal cord injuries.
For more information, visit darrellgwynnfoundation.org.