Larson wins pole yet again

The Associated Press

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Larson won his third pole of the season as he eyes his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the year.

Larson turned a lap at 127.792 mph Friday in qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway. Chase Elliott was second at 127.665.

Kyle Busch was third on a track that he’s mastered throughout his career. Busch will be seeking his eighth Cup victory at Bristol in tonight’s race.

Larson calls this his favorite track, but he’s never won here. He believes that could change Saturday night.

“We’ve been close so many times,” Larson said. “I feel like we’ve been second or third and led the most laps here so many times.”

Larson’s chances of winning could depend on whether he can hold off Busch, who already has seven Cup victories at Bristol.

Busch has won six Cup races this year and holds a narrow lead over Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. in the season standings.

Harvick qualified sixth.

Truex didn’t make it out of the second round of qualifying and will start 17th out of 40 cars tonight. That represents his lowest qualifying position since he started 36th on July 1 at Chicagoland, where he went on to finish fourth.

Tonight marks the 40th anniversary of Bristol’s traditional late-summer Cup race. The threat of inclement weather has caused the starting time for Saturday’s race to move up to 6:45 p.m., an hour earlier than the originally scheduled start.

Truex needs a sponsor

BRISTOL, Tenn. — NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr. needs sponsorship to stay with his championship-winning race team.

Truex is locked in a fierce battle with former champions Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in his push to defend last year’s Cup Series title. His Furniture Row Racing team is in the mix even though the future of the No. 78 team is in flux.

Furniture Row is seeking a primary sponsor for next year, and does not have contracts with Truex or manufacturer Toyota. He said he hopes to have a better idea on what his future holds in the next few weeks.

“Right now, we need sponsorship. That’s as simple as it gets,” Truex said Friday. “Is there a 50 percent chance we get that in the next couple of weeks? Or is there a 100 percent chance? Or is there 2 percent? I don’t know. I can tell you that everything really is based upon that.”

Colorado-based Furniture Row for years was sponsored by team owner Barney Visser, who with Truex was finally able to sell inventory and bring funding to the car. The team had a breakout 2018 season and won the Cup title, but 5-Hour Energy is leaving at the end of the season and Visser doesn’t want to return to funding the operation out of pocket.

Truex won a career-best eight races last year and his first Cup title. He’s got four wins this year and is considered part of the dominant “Big 3” along with Busch and Harvick.

Now his name is suddenly mentioned as a potential replacement for Kurt Busch at Stewart-Haas Racing, where he would be Harvick’s teammate, or a myriad of other possibilities. He’s heard all the rumors, as has his race team, and they are trying to focus on defending their title.

“We always feel like that at the end of the day, if we do our jobs and we do them well and we’re winning races, that’s our best opportunity to keep things going the way they are,” Truex said.