Winless Johnson, Hamlin look for turnaround at Martinsville

Posted April 02, 2017

No, not his record-tying seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship hardware. But rain after the practice session forced NASCAR to wipe out qualifying as it poured so hard that inspection had to be temporarily halted.

The field for the STP 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be set by the rule book. I know Larson won a race past year, but not regularly, let's say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. "It seems like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out and I've got to fight people off on restarts". I can go fast in qualifying or early on tires, but I struggle at saving my stuff.

Last year's STP 500 victor Kyle Busch has been Joe Gibbs Racing's best driver and will be a favorite to lead laps and possibly win back to back checkered flags. "If we can get a top 5 or top 10 here, that would be a huge success".

"I'm just very appreciative of what he has done for our sport", Johnson said of the elder Smith, who was a part of the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. "Not only am I excited to say 'Drivers Start Your Engines, ' I'm also excited to be able to watch one of the most exciting races on the schedule, in person". Chase Elliott will start alongside Larson on the front row, with Martin Truex Jr. third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Joey Logano fifth.

Finally, some sleepers I could see possibly stealing a win or finishing upfront include Ryan Blaney, Clint Boyer, Jamie McMurray and AJ Allmendinger.

But don't think for a minute that Busch is anxious heading into Sunday's STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1).

"You never know. Our cars are so good right now, maybe we could contend for a win", he said.

Qualifying (pending rain) starts at 3:35pm CT on Friday.

See below for complete results from the session.

He has company in his appreciation for the rain, too.

"Any time I can do anything good at Martinsville, it's great for me", the Hendrick Motorsports driver said.