Denny Hamlin puts Gibbs Toyota on the pole for Dover 400

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Denny Hamlin doesn’t consider the Dover International Speedway to be one of his favorite tracks, but on a cool Saturday afternoon, the Virginia native raced away with the pole position for tomorrow’s AAA 400, the third race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. For his one-lap average around the Monster Mile, the New Hampshire race winner achieved a speed of 159.299 miles per hour.

Hamlin drove the FedEx Office Toyota owned by Joe Gibbs Racing. For Hamlin, he earned his 12th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole and the third of the season. It also marked his first pole in 14 races at Dover.

Starting from the pole will help us with bonus points and with tuning our car throughout the day.

Denny Hamlin

“It was an exciting lap. I didn’t think my first lap was good for a pole, so I ran a second lap, trying to improve on my first lap,” Hamlin said about his pole run. “Darian (crew chief Grubb) has been working some magic (on the car), and our qualifying has been much better this year, which has helped with our results. I thought we were a top-five car, but not the best one. I felt that (teammate) Kyle Busch had the best car, and we would be a hair behind him. Starting from the pole will help us with bonus points and with tuning our car throughout the day. In the past, my biggest problem has been in passing cars. Obviously, track position is going to be very crucial, and we have to do everything we can to keep it.”

For his pole achievement, Hamlin said that the car should receive 75 per cent of the credit.

Qualifying for the outside of the front row was Clint Bowyer in the 5-hour Energy Toyota.

Said the Kansas native, “It was a pretty good lap, but I was pretty loose. I knew what we were up against. I was too loose in turns 1 and 2, so I knew what was fixing to happen. When you are that close (to pole), it is disappointing. You know if you had put the gas down more, you could have had the pole. We will save that for another day.”

Martin Truex Jr. timed third fastest in the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota with a speed of 159.200 mph.

Believing he had a pole-winning car, Truex shouldered the blame for not coming through. “I just messed up in turns 3 and 4, and we should have had the pole. I feel bad,” Truex said. “The car was really fast all weekend, and I hope we can get our Toyota into victory lane again. We wanted to get the pole, so we could get the No. 1 pit stall. That is a really good spot to have. After the start we have had to the Chase, I feel like we need to get going. So far this weekend, the car has been really fast, so I have to make it happen.”

Sam Hornish Jr. put the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger into the fourth starting position with a speed of 158.758 mph. The fourth spot was his strongest qualifying effort of the season.

Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

“From inside the car, I thought we put together a pretty solid lap 1, and I tried to get a little more out of it on the second lap,” he commented.

Kyle Busch qualified fifth in the Interstate Batteries Toyota, giving the manufacturer four cars in the top-five qualifiers.

Sixth through 10th in speed were Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski.

Point leader Jimmie Johnson qualified 11th fastest, and he is seeking his eighth victory at Dover. With seven wins, he is tied for first place with the legendary Bobby Allison.

Other Chase drivers and their starting positions are Matt Kenseth (12th), Tony Stewart (24th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (25th).

For her third Sprint Cup race, Danica Patrick qualified 38th.

Failing to qualify were David Stremme, Mike Bliss, Jason Leffler, Cole Whitt and Kelly Bires.

The AAA 400 will be telecast by ESPN at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Story by: Joe Jennings

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Qualifying report
Tags bowyer, featured, gibbs, hamlin, jennings, monster mile, toyota, truex