Denny Hamlin on Saturday earned the pole for Sunday’s first race of the second round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs at Dover International Speedway.
Hamlin covered the 1-mile oval at 166.984 mph. It’s Hamlin’s second pole of the season, the fourth of his career at Dover and the overall 32nd pole of his Cup career. Even with his pole success at the Monster Mile, Hamlin has yet to earn a win there in 27 previous career starts.
“I got him (Kyle Larson, who will start second), I’m so happy I beat him,” a smiling Hamlin told NBCSN. “To have that lap there, it was a really good lap for us. I knew when I ran it that it was solid. … This is probably as optimistic as I’ve been going into a Dover race because we’ve really dedicated so much time working on my technique around this race track and figuring out what I need to do to be successful. I’m still learning, even for start No. 500.”
Sunday will be Hamlin’s 500th career NASCAR Cup start. He’s in good company: NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and Matt Kenseth also won in their 500th career starts.
“I really do (feel like he can win Sunday),” Hamlin told NBCSN. “It just seems like in practice I was really comfortable in the car. Usually, my emote here is usually very uncomfortable, but this FedEx team really has given me something this weekend that’s been driving good and I’ve been happy with it. We definitely did not expect that type of lap in qualifying.”
Larson will start alongside Hamlin on the front row with a speed of 166.960 mph.
Even though his car failed all pre-qualifying inspection attempts and his chief engineer was ejected from the track as a result, Martin Truex Jr. was still able to rally back to take the third starting spot (166.205 mph).
Kevin Harvick was fourth-fastest (165.998 mph), followed by Roval winner Chase Elliott (165.937 mph), William Byron (165.738), Aric Almirola (165.670), Erik Jones (165.616), Kurt Busch (165.388) and Ryan Blaney (165.282).