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Why Kansas Cup qualifying is more important than usual

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, pits during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 17, 2017 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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Friday’s NASCAR Cup qualifying not only set pit selection for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, it also set the pit stall selection for next week’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

That means Martin Truex Jr.'s pole will give him the No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville and aid his chances in winning at the historic track for the first time.

The reason for this is because qualifying takes place about three hours before next weekend’s race at Martinsville. This is the same thing that was done at Pocono (pit stall was based on qualifying at Indianapolis the week before)) and at Watkins Glen (based on Pocono qualifying).

Jimmie Johnson, who has not earned a pole this season – and just three poles since 2014 – knows the significance of the No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville. Three of Johnson’s nine wins there have come when he had the No. 1 pit stall.

“For Martinsville, yeah, this is huge,” said Johnson said, who qualified 13th Friday. “We all know how important that first pit box is.”

Pit selection at Martinsville is important because pit road there is tight and it’s easy to get boxed in by another team. Only a few pit stalls have an opening before or after them, making them more valuable. By having the No. 1 stall at the end of pit road, a driver can fire out of their stall instead of having to possibly go around somebody.

“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.”