DARLINGTON, SC - SEPTEMBER 01: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, speaks with Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 BassProShops/TrackerBoats40thAnv Toyota, in the garage area during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 1, 2017 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Here's why Kansas qualifying is more important than usual


During a typical week in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, teams qualify on Fridays, practice on Saturdays, and race on Sundays, but that will all change next week at Martinsville Speedway.

That's because drivers will make their qualifying attempts just three hours before the start of the First Data 500. As a result, teams will be making their pit stall selections for that race based on how they qualified this week at Kansas Speedway.

With a qualifying time of 28.719 seconds (188.029 mph), Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. earned the pole for the Hollywood Casino 400. That gives him a distinct advantage at Martinsville because the very first pit stall allows for a free release off pit road. On the other hand, most of his competitors will have to maneuver around vehicles pitting directly in front of them before they make their exit.

Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is one driver who knows all too well of the advantages the first pit stall provides. Johnson has won at Martinsville nine times and had the first pit stall for three of those victories, according to NBC Sports.

"The few times I have been in that (No. 1) pit box, I mean you just need an okay pit stop and you roll off ahead of everybody," Johnson said. "I mean, it is a big advantage and everybody is aware that today counts for that pit box."

Since Truex has already advanced to the next round of NASCAR's playoffs--thanks to his win at Charlotte--having the first pit box at Martinsville puts him in prime position to earn a spot in the Championship 4 race at Homestead.