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Kyle Busch qualifies first at Martinsville

Kyle Busch wins the pole at Martinsville for Sunday's Cup playoff race as he tries to gain momentum entering the Round of 8.

Kyle Busch qualified first Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, where he is the defending winner in the Round of 8 opener.

Pending inspection, the No. 18 Toyota driver will start on the front row with Clint Bowyer, who qualified a career-best second at Martinsville after winning the most recent Cup race there seven months ago.

“We’ve been good here the last few years, which his nice, especially this time of year,” Busch told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “The car has had good speed since we’ve been here. We’re just trying to fine-tune the balance. We want to be best and automatically transfer (to the Championship 4).”

It’s the fourth pole this season the 31st of his career for the 2015 champion, who has made the past three Championship 4 rounds. His victory in the Oct. 29, 2017 race was his second on the 0.526-mile oval, where Busch has six consecutive top-five finishes.

Denny Hamlin qualified third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola, who earned his best qualifying position in 10 years at Martinsville.

Other playoff drivers who reached the final round: Martin Truex Jr. (sixth), Kurt Busch (seventh) and Joey Logano (11th).

Two playoff drivers failed to advance to the final round: Kevin Harvick (who was bumped to 13th by Joey Logano in the closing seconds) and Chase Elliott (21st).

NASCAR will set the official lineup for the race after cars clear inspection Sunday morning. Drivers whose cars fail inspection will start from the rear after having their times disallowed. Pit selection will occur after cars are inspected.

Click here for results from three rounds of qualifying.