TALLADEGA, Ala. — Martin Truex showed up at Talladega Superspeedway determined to be at the front of the field and in control of his chances in NASCAR's playoffs.
A pole-winning run Saturday put him at the top of the field for the critical elimination race.
Truex turned a lap of 193.423 mph to earn the top starting spot for today's Hellmann's 500. The run came after NASCAR confiscated a bolt from his Toyota, but Truex said he was not worried about ramifications to his Furniture Row Racing team.
"The jack bolt issue is really not a big issue," Truex said. "They just took the left front, so it's not a big issue. It was a parts manufacturing issue, no big deal at all."
Winner of two races in the first round of the Chase for the Championship, Truex is winless in Round 2 but above the cutoff point. Four drivers will be cut from the field today.
"All we have to do is make it through to the next one," he said. "We've got some good tracks coming up for us and (today) is going to be a tough race. A lot is going to happen, but we just have to hope for the best and do the best job we can do.
"I feel good about my car and it's got a lot of speed in it, obviously."
The inspection issue with Truex provided a little early drama on qualifying day, as there was some speculation the team could face a penalty. NASCAR typically issues penalties in the middle of the week, and a point deduction could in theory knock Truex out of the Chase.
However, NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said a points penalty is unlikely, and that Truex had no competitive advantage. The bolt taken could have been considered a safety issue, though. "I would say it would be unlikely but it has to go through our process," he said.
Brad Keselowski, in nearly a must-win situation today, qualified second. He won the knockout race in 2014 to stave off elimination and said his best starting position at Talladega bodes well for him. "I feel like qualifying well is certainly a very strong omen for Talladega and Daytona," he said. "I think all of the races I've won here, we've had good starts and the races that we haven't won or been super-competitive we usually don't have any speed in qualifying, so it's certainly a confidence-builder."
Keselowski won at Talladega in May and at Daytona in July.
Matt Kenseth qualified third and was followed by Chase Elliott, who is also in a must-win situation today.
Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse were fifth and sixth, respectively, and Roush-Fenway Racing put three of its cars into the final round of qualifying as Trevor Bayne was 11th.
F1: Lewis Hamilton needs a late-season charge to catch Nico Rosberg for the series championship. He can start today from the pole at the U.S. Grand Prix. Hamilton outgunned his Mercedes rival and teammate on the last lap to grab his first pole at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where he has won three times starting from second. Hamilton has been a Texas favorite with his three wins in four years, and he returned this year facing a 33-point deficit behind Rosberg in the title chase.
TRUCKS: Grant Enfinger grabbed his first NASCAR victory — at his home track, no less — by holding off the pack to win at Talladega Superspeedway. Enfinger used a plan with teammate Spencer Gallagher to move to the front and led a race-high 45 laps to secure the win. Gallagher finished second. Talladega was an elimination race in the inaugural Chase playoffs, and Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek were both knocked out as the field was trimmed from eight drivers to six. Advancing to the next round: Ben Kennedy, Matt Crafton, Peters, Johnny Sauter and Christopher Bell.