Published: Sat, September 23, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Five things to watch in NASCAR Truck playoff opener at NHMS

This is his third pole in 19 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) races.

Kyle Larson will start second after a qualifying lap of 134.911 miles per hour. Behind the wheel of the No. 77 Menards/Curb Records Chevrolet, Newman posted a time of 28.952 seconds (131.556 mph) around the 1.058-mile oval. Prominent drivers have driven for smaller teams in recent years with mixed results - Kurt Busch helped launch Furniture Row Racing into the championship contender it is today with his one-year stint in 2013; Clint Bowyer in 2016 at HScott Motorsports, not so much. Bristol victor Patrick Emerling rounded out the top five.

Martin Truex Jr., who won the playoff opener last week at Chicagoland Speedway, qualified fifth.

Defending race victor Kevin Harvick will start sixth at 134.108 miles per hour with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch qualifying seventh at 133.985 miles per hour.

Completing the top 10 were Kasey Kahne (133.966 mph) and Matt Kenseth (133.689 mph). Larson was second in the first Cup race at the track. Maybe I could have found a few tenths more, but overall, I felt like I hit my lap pretty good, but Kyle [Busch] was quite a bit faster than us throughout qualifying, especially that first round.

Reigning series champion Johnny Sauter is off to a good start in his bid for a second consecutive title. He's finished top-three or better in every race he's competed in since 2014 and hasn't finished outside the top-six at New Hampshire since 2008.

"I think for my crew chief (Brian Pattie) throughout the race, whether you stay out if a late caution comes in a stage and some cars pit to set themselves up for the next stage, or stay out to win that stage or get points, I think you can nearly do the opposite and work strategy throughout the whole race based off of where those cars are running". At the end of the day, it'll be no-holds-barred racing among drivers of similar skill levels, some of whom are running for a championship.

Five Playoffs drivers did not advance to the final round of qualifying: Elliott, Newman, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

NEXT: Second practice at 9 a.m. ET Saturday.

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