Denny Hamlin scores Toyota's first pole of 2019 at Bristol

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/1283/" data-ylk="slk:Denny Hamlin">Denny Hamlin</a> has three wins so far in 2019. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin has three wins so far in 2019. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Toyota has a Cup Series pole in 2019.

Denny Hamlin posted the fastest lap in Friday’s qualifying session at Bristol and will start first on Saturday night. The manufacturer, which consists of four cars at Joe Gibbs Racing and a car at Leavine Family Racing, hadn’t won a pole all season until Hamlin was fast on Friday despite having three drivers combine for 11 wins in 23 races so far this season.

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Toyota’s relative lack of qualifying speed sure looks like it’s been a strategy with NASCAR’s new rules for 2019. And it’s been working. A win by Hamlin on Saturday would be his fourth of the season and would tie him with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. for most in the Cup Series.

Hamlin has won once at Bristol before. He took the checkered flag during the summer night race in 2012.

His pole also came after he noted on Twitter Friday afternoon that Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owned Bristol, had made some changes to the upper groove at the track.

Hamlin’s tweets came after Kurt Busch had noted a lack of communication between drivers, NASCAR, and the track with the track’s surface prep efforts.

“What I’m getting at is we as drivers keep showing up each week and there is a driver council that is trying to help with where the traction compound should be sprayed,” Kurt Busch said. “But then there are these random tracks that are grinding the race track and NASCAR didn’t know that Bristol Motor Speedway was going to grind the race track. The theory is that the track was trying to eliminate the grip level that the drivers have been able to find up there and put it back down on the bottom. Each race each weekend is something different.”

SMI CEO Marcus Smith oddly responded to Hamlin’s tweet by quoting a tweet from Bristol saying the ticket office was receiving a high volume of work. He then gave a straight answer.

Bristol has struggled to replicate the racing that happened in the late 1990s and early 2000s since repaving the track a dozen years ago. Though it needs to be said that the racing that’s happened at Bristol in recent years has been pretty good and fun. We’ll see if it’s good and fun on Saturday night.

Starting lineup

1. Denny Hamlin

2. Kyle Larson

3. Martin Truex Jr.

4. Kurt Busch

5. Aric Almirola

6. Chase Elliott

7. Matt DiBenedetto

8. Kevin Harvick

9. Erik Jones

10. Alex Bowman

11. Joey Logano

12. Ryan Blaney

13. Brad Keselowski

14. Ryan Newman

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

16. David Ragan

17. Daniel Hemric

18. Daniel Suarez

19. Austin Dillon

20. Clint Bowyer

21. William Byron

22. Bubba Wallace

23. Ryan Preece

24. Ty Dillon

25. Paul Menard

26. Corey LaJoie

27. Matt Tifft

28. Michael McDowell

29. Chris Buescher

30. Jimmie Johnson

31. Kyle Busch

32. Landon Cassill

33. BJ McLeod

34. Quin Houff

35. Josh Bilicki

36. JJ Yeley

37. Reed Sorenson

38. Kyle Weatherman

39. Ross Chastain

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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