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Wet track forces cancellation of M'ville Cup quals

October 29, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Points leader Edwards, teammate Kenseth get front row and pick of pit stalls

With the racing surface at Martinsville Speedway still wet from overnight rains, NASCAR and the track had to adjust Saturday's schedule of events, and Sprint Cup qualifying was a casualty.

With qualifying canceled in favor of a Cup practice at noon -- a postponement from a planned 8:30 a.m. ET session -- the field for Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 was set according to owner points. That puts the 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers, led by series leader Carl Edwards on the pole, in the first 12 starting spots for the seventh Chase race.

Sharing the front row with Edwards is Matt Kenseth, who is second in the standings, 14 points behind his Roush Fenway Racing teammate.

It also gives Edwards the right to pick pit stall No. 1, closest to the exit from pit road at the head of the backstretch. That pit box, with an unobstructed return to the track, is worth two to three positions, in the estimation of most drivers.

The starting spots and pit stall are boons to Edwards, whose best qualifying effort at the .526-mile short track is a seventh in 2010. (He started fourth in 2008 because of a rainout.) To say Edwards was happy about the turn of events is an understatement.

"Qualifying, I think, is one of the most important parts of this race, and it's no secret that's been a tough thing for me and Matt as well," Edwards said after the cancellation was announced. "So I think it's a best case for us that we get to start on the front row, and even better is the pit stall selection.

"I think that's going to last all day. No matter how much we have to work on the car or things we have to do, that first pit stall will be great. This is my first time having it, I believe, so it's the best qualifying we could have hoped for."

Video: Out Front with Miss Coors Light

Kenseth may have gained the most with the washout, given that his average starting position of 23.3 in 23 attempts includes only one qualifying result better than 10th (second in last year's spring race).

Kenseth, though, can be a glass-half-empty kind of guy, and he did see a negative in the favorable starting position.

"Certainly, it's easier when you start up front," said Kenseth, who earned the second of his two top-fives at Martinsville in 2007. "The only aggravating part about it is you don't have anywhere to go except backwards, so it gets aggravating if your car is not real fast, and you're losing positions."

Both Edwards and Kenseth will have a chance to lead a lap and earn a bonus point early in the race. Kenseth expects Edwards to pick the outside lane for the start of the event.

Brad Keselowski, 18 points behind Edwards, will start third beside Tony Stewart, 19 points back in fourth. Kevin Harvick, fifth in points (26 back) and the winner of the April race at Martinsville, starts on the inside of the third row beside Kyle Busch (40 points behind).

Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman will take the green flag from positions seven through 12, respectively.

Dennis Setzer and Derrike Cope failed to make the field under rainout rules, based on number of starts in the series this year.