Hamlin takes Homestead pole, Kyle Busch leads title contenders

Hamlin takes Homestead pole, Kyle Busch leads title contenders
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Nov 17, 2018, 12:19 AM

Denny Hamlin has one more chance to pick up a win this season and got off to the best possible start.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Ground
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY
Martin Truex JR., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops / 5-hour ENERGY Toyota talks to the media during media day
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Shell Pennzoil
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Shell Pennzoil
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M&M's
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota talks to the media during media day
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
(Left to Right): Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex JR, Kevin Harvick

Hamlin surprised this year’s NASCAR Cup Series championship contenders by topping the group in the final round of Friday’s qualifying session.

His average lap speed of 173.863 mph was good enough to top his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, to earn the pole for Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The pole is Hamlin’s fourth of the season and 30th of his career. Hamlin has won at least one race in each of last 12 seasons but has yet to earn a victory this year.

Earlier in the day, Hamlin posted a message on Twitter indicating this weekend’s race would be the last with his current crew chief, Mike Wheeler.

“It’s good for us to get this race team up front and end on a high note with a win,” Hamlin said. “In 2013, we were in the same boat where we hadn’t won a race until the final race and we finally got it done.

“So, hopefully, this is our time to do it. We’re just going to dig in and hats off to the team. We were seventh to 10th in the first two rounds and (Wheeler) just made the right adjustment.”

After Busch, fellow title contender Martin Truex Jr. was third-fastest, Keselowski was fourth and title contender Joey Logano was fifth.

Kevin Harvick, the final of the four drivers competing for the championship on Sunday, will line up 12th.

Rounding out sixth through 11th were Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson.

Round 2

Jones surprised in the second round with the fastest average lap speed (174.036 mph).

Title contenders Truex (173.941 mph), Kyle Busch (173.566 mph) and Logano (173.511 mph) were second, third and fourth, respectively. Keselowski completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Stenhouse, Kurt Busch, Harvick (the fourth title contender), Almirola, Newman and Larson.

Larson went out very late and bumped Alex Bowman from the Top 12 in the final minute.

Among those who failed to advance to the final round were Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez.

Asked about the prospects this Sunday once again being the final Cup race of Kenseth’s career, he said: “I’m just going to make this an annual deal. I’ll come down here and milk as much as I can out of this every year.”

Round 1

Kyle Busch led all the title contenders in the first 15-minute session of qualifying, posting an average lap speed of 174.644 mph.

Logano was second (174.481 mph) and Truex was (174.121 mph). Keselowski was fourth and Blaney rounded out the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Newman, Suarez and Bowman.

The fourth title contender, Harvick, ended up 16th-fastest in the first round.

Among those who failed to advance out of the first round were Clint Bowyer, William Byron, David Ragan, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon.

Cla # Driver 4506 Time Gap Mph
1 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 31.059   173.863
2 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 31.102 0.043 173.622
3 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 31.117 0.058 173.539
4 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 31.136 0.077 173.433
5 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 31.148 0.089 173.366
6 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 31.298 0.239 172.535
7 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 31.303 0.244 172.507
8 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 31.317 0.258 172.430
9 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 31.322 0.263 172.403
10 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 31.331 0.272 172.353
11 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 31.390 0.331 172.029
12 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 31.406 0.347 171.942
13 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 31.299 0.240 172.529
14 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 31.301 0.242 172.518
15 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 31.345 0.286 172.276
16 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 31.351 0.292 172.243
17 6 United States Matt Kenseth  Ford 31.359 0.300 172.199
18 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 31.395 0.336 172.002
19 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 31.404 0.345 171.953
20 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 31.476 0.417 171.559
21 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 31.482 0.423 171.527
22 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 31.511 0.452 171.369
23 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 31.574 0.515 171.027
24 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 31.633 0.574 170.708
25 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 31.393 0.334 172.013
26 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 31.427 0.368 171.827
27 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 31.536 0.477 171.233
28 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 31.616 0.557 170.800
29 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 31.672 0.613 170.498
30 95 United States Regan Smith  Chevrolet 31.818 0.759 169.715
31 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 31.830 0.771 169.651
32 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 31.962 0.903 168.951
33 23 United States J.J. Yeley  Ford 32.297 1.238 167.198
34 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 32.335 1.276 167.002
35 99 United States Kyle Weatherman  Chevrolet 32.355 1.296 166.898
36 51 United States B.J. McLeod  Ford 32.842 1.783 164.424
37 97 Tanner Berryhill  Toyota 33.138 2.079 162.955
38 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 33.414 2.355 161.609
39 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet    

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