Hamlin snags pole from Truex in dramatic qualifying session

Hamlin snags pole from Truex in dramatic qualifying session
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Nov 18, 2017, 12:19 AM

Denny Hamlin may no longer be eligible to win this season’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship but he will be a factor in the season finale.

Polesitter Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota, Furniture Row Racing, Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Hamlin, the last drive to make a qualifying attempt in the final round of knockout qualifying on Friday, snatched the pole away from fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr.

Hamlin’s average lap speed of 173.980 mph just edged Truex (173.952 mph), who led the four drivers who are competing for the series title on Sunday.

Title contenders Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick will line up third, fifth and ninth, respectively.

The pole is Hamlin’s second of the season and 26th of his career.

“We had there by a little bit. I actually messed up a little in (Turns) 3 and 4,” Hamlin said. “Overall a great run for our team. Hopefully, we can have a good Sunday.”

Matt Kenseth will start fourth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sixth, Kyle Larson seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, Daniel Suarez 10th, Ryan Blaney 11th and Trevor Bayne ended up 12th.

“It definitely was still a really good day,” said Truex, “I’m just proud of everyone. We did what we needed to do and we’ll get to work tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.”

1 11 united_states Denny Hamlin  Toyota 31.038   173.980
2 78 united_states Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 31.043 0.005 173.952
3 18 united_states Kyle Busch  Toyota 31.047 0.009 173.930
4 20 united_states Matt Kenseth  Toyota 31.272 0.234 172.678
5 2 united_states Brad Keselowski  Ford 31.313 0.275 172.452
6 17 united_states Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 31.330 0.292 172.359
7 42 united_states Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 31.358 0.320 172.205
8 41 united_states Kurt Busch  Ford 31.376 0.338 172.106
9 4 united_states Kevin Harvick  Ford 31.418 0.380 171.876
10 19 mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 31.434 0.396 171.789
11 21 united_states Ryan Blaney  Ford 31.532 0.494 171.255
12 6 united_states Trevor Bayne  Ford 31.556 0.518 171.124
13 1 united_states Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 31.322 0.284 172.403
14 77 united_states Erik Jones  Toyota 31.365 0.327 172.166
15 27 united_states Paul Menard  Chevrolet 31.367 0.329 172.155
16 14 united_states Clint Bowyer  Ford 31.396 0.358 171.996
17 3 united_states Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 31.459 0.421 171.652
18 24 united_states Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 31.470 0.432 171.592
19 22 united_states Joey Logano  Ford 31.524 0.486 171.298
20 43 united_states Aric Almirola  Ford 31.541 0.503 171.206
21 31 united_states Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 31.577 0.539 171.011
22 48 united_states Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 31.595 0.557 170.913
23 95 united_states Michael McDowell  Chevrolet 31.640 0.602 170.670
24 88 united_states Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Chevrolet 0.000   0.000
25 10 united_states Danica Patrick  Ford 31.588 0.550 170.951
26 47 united_states A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 31.601 0.563 170.881
27 5 united_states Kasey Kahne  Chevrolet 31.621 0.583 170.773
28 34 united_states Landon Cassill  Ford 31.632 0.594 170.713
29 37 united_states Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 31.647 0.609 170.632
30 38 united_states David Ragan  Ford 31.650 0.612 170.616
31 32 united_states Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 31.814 0.776 169.737
32 13 united_states Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 31.831 0.793 169.646
33 72 united_states Cole Whitt  Chevrolet 32.014 0.976 168.676
34 23 united_states Corey Lajoie  Toyota 32.301 1.263 167.177
35 83 united_states Joey Gase    32.796 1.758 164.654
36 33 united_states Jeffrey Earnhardt  Chevrolet 32.801 1.763 164.629
37 15 united_states Reed Sorenson  Chevrolet 32.997 1.959 163.651
38 66 united_states David Starr  Chevrolet 33.025 1.987 163.512
39 51 united_states Ray Black Jr.  Chevrolet 34.010 2.972 158.777

Round 2

Truex continued his fast pace in the second round, easily going to the top of the speed chart with an average lap of 174.820 mph.

Once again, he bested fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch (174.656 mph) to keep the top spot.

Hamlin was third-fastest, Kenseth fourth and Harvick completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Stenhouse, Larson, Kurt Busch, Blaney, Suarez, Bayne and Keselowski.

All four Cup title contenders advanced to the final, five-minute session.

Among those who failed to advance to the final round were Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.

“A little bit unfortunate not to make it to the next round,” McMurray said. “Overall, it wasn’t a horrible day. Still pretty happy with our car.”

Johnson, among the last drivers to make a lap in Round 2, got loose off Turn 4 which cost him some speed. “This track is a lot of fun to race on, a lot of different lanes,” he said.

Round 1

Truex set a blistering pace in the first 20-minute round of knockout qualifying, racing to the top spot with an average lap speed of 175.650 mph – almost a mile-an-hour faster than Kyle Busch (174.735 mph).

Hamlin was third-fastest, Harvick fourth and Stenhouse completed the top-five.

All four Cup series title contenders ended up ninth or faster in the first round.

Several cars failed to clear pre-qualifying inspection by the time the first round began, including last season’s champion and race winner, Johnson.

Johnson eventually made it out on the track – he was the last driver to attempt a speed – and ended up 18th quick in the first round.

Among the drivers who failed to advance to Round 2 were Danica Patrick, A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon, who earned his career-best finish last weekend at Phoenix.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and work on it tomorrow,” Allmendinger said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a qualifying attempt (15th in Round 1) but because his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team had to change engines during practice earlier Friday, he will have to start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field.

“The car’s a little bit tight in the center. I feel good about the speed in the car, but we just have to get it fixed up,” said Earnhardt, whose team elected not to participate in Round since they have to start in the back and wanted to save their tires.

He’ll officially start Sunday’s race in 24th.

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