A week after being involved in some on-track pushing and shoving with Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece has scored his first-career NASCAR Cup Series pole. In Saturday's qualifying session for Sunday's NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway, Preece turned a lightning-quick 19.979-second (94.780 mph) lap, which put him as the lone driver in the session to record a sub-20-second lap.
Preece said he made an adjustment to the brake bias inside the car following his opening lap of the final round of qualifying, which set him up to nail the best lap time on his final lap of the session.
"The first lap, when I came across the finish line and Andy said it was a 20.12, I knew it wasn't enough for the pole," Preece explained. "I was fighting loose that first lap on entry and drive, so going off into [turn] 1, I grabbed myself a whole bunch of front bias and it helped it stick and did everything I wanted to."
The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, who moved to the team in the offseason in an effort to re-energize his racing career, will now start from the position he wants to be in most -- the lead. But Preece is a journeyman racer, who understands that it takes much more than a good qualifying run to score a solid finish in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, Preece is optimistic that he will have track position on his side to start the race.
"I think you guys see it, of everybody, how important track position really is nowadays," Preece said. "And whether you have control of the race, or you have track position, you can't give it up because it's so hard to pass."
Preece, 32, was the final driver to record a qualifying lap in the final round of qualifying, and his ultra-fast circuit around the 0.526-mile paperclip, pushed him past Trackhouse Racing's Daniel Suárez, who will start alongside Preece on the outside of Row 1 on Sunday.
While Preece scored the pole, the Connecticut-native was not the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver that showcased speed in qualifying.
Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe will occupy Row 2, and they will have a great view of their teammate's initial start of the race. The first, third and fourth-place starting positions are the best starting positions of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season for the Stewart-Haas Racing trio.
"From a company standpoint, it certainly makes us all very optimistic for tomorrow. We could be smart, and we can all have good days," Preece said of the overall strength shown by SHR in qualifying.
Martin Truex Jr., who pilots the No. 19 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, will start Sunday's race from the fifth position.
Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-10 qualifiers for the NOCO 400 at Martinsville.
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