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Apr 6, 2024 8:24 pm

Kyle Larson edges nemesis Bubba Wallace for Martinsville pole

Kyle Larson

MARTINSVILLE, Va.–Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace renewed their rivalry on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway — without contact between their cars.

Six days after Wallace turned Larson with fewer than two laps left to cause the final caution at Richmond and take a likely win from Martin Truex Jr., Larson edged Wallace for the pole position for Sunday’s Cook Out 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

With Hendrick Motorsports celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend with special paint schemes, Larson — the last driver to make a qualifying run in the final round — scorched the 0.526-mile short track with a lap at 96.034 mph (19.718 seconds) to edge Wallace (96.029 mph) for the top starting spot by 0.001 seconds.

“Of all people, it would be Larson — by a thousandth,” Wallace said after Larson’s lap flashed onto the scoreboard.

Though Larson was part and parcel of the final caution last week at Richmond, he rallied to finish third in overtime, while a slow final pit stop relegated Wallace to 13th.

“Last week was pretty sweet revenge, us finishing third and him having a rough pit stop,” Larson said with a smile.

The pole on Saturday, however, was something of a surprise.

“Honestly, a bit unexpected,” said Larson, who earned his second straight Busch Light Pole Award this season, his second at Martinsville and the 18th of his career. “I knew we’d be good, but that second lap (in the final round) didn’t feel that good. It was just enough, though. Really cool to get this 40th anniversary Hendrick Camaro on the pole.

“It seems like all four Hendrick cars are really good, too, so hopefully it’s a good day for the organization.”

Larson’s teammate, Chase Elliott, qualified third at 95.869 mph, with Alex Bowman taking the 10th starting spot at 95.487 mph. William Byron failed to make the final round and will take the green flag in 18th.

Truex (95.864 mph) claimed the fourth spot on the grid, followed by Ford drivers Chase Briscoe, Joey Logano and Josh Berry. Last week’s Richmond winner, Denny Hamlin, reigning series champion Ryan Blaney and Bowman will start eighth through 10th, respectively.

Note: Team owner Rick Hendrick had planned to drive the pace car on Sunday as part of the 40th anniversary celebration, but knee replacement surgery intervened, preventing Hendrick from attending the race.

-By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Special to Field Level Media

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