MARTINSVILLE, VA – Kevin Neal was one of the first qualifiers to take time in Friday night’s qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway when he laid down his 20.347-second lap, and that lap left many talking throughout the entirety of the evening.
Because the qualifying groups were sorted slowest-to-fastest, when Neal went to the top of the board, it was expected to be knocked off almost instantly. Instead, he held the provisional pole through more than half of the qualifying session before ultimately ending up 22nd. Now, the 34-year-old from Winston-Salem, North Carolina has a strong shot of making the field for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in his first attempt.
“Need to say thank you to Jason Stanley and Joshua Yeoman for giving me the opportunity to drive their racecars,” Neal told Race22.com. “It was very surprising to me to see our name at the top that long. I hope we can do good in the heat race and make the show, impress a lot of people and show them these Bowman Gray people, we can get it done too.”
Neal was surprised by his effort but also in jubilation over having such a strong showing in qualifying.
“Everybody keeps telling me good lap, great lap,” Neal said. “I didn’t even know what we ran to begin with, then I started hearing times and I was like wow, that’s a pretty good lap. Stacy [Puryear] put down a good lap. Congratulations to him. I’m just happy to only be two-tenths off the pole lap.”
Neal’s expectations aren’t really to win the race, but to just make the field for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 later this afternoon.
“We’re not really looking for the clock,” Neal remarked. “My main goal is to get in the race. There are a lot of people who have tried to make this race for years and haven’t ever made it and right here we’re sitting with a golden opportunity to do it. I think the ball’s in my court and I’m ready to play. Anything can happen in these heat races. We’re in a very fast heat race, a lot of great drivers. I hope they continue to be great drivers today.”
Kevin Neal will start seventh in the second of three heat races. The heat races will commence at 3pm. The feature race for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway will get underway at 8pm.