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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin claims Charlotte pole

Denny Hamlin won the pole for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sept. 6, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Denny Hamlin won the pole for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sept. 6, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Denny Hamlin claimed his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole and the second of his career at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on Friday with a 28.184-second/191.598 mph lap in the third of three rounds of qualifying to claim the top starting spot for Sunday’s Bank America 500, the first race of the second round of the 10-race playoffs.

“It’s really big,” Hamlin said. “This is a track position type race track. All of them are, but any mile and half you go to you want to have the number one pit stall; you want to be out in clean air. Good thing with our FedEx Toyota we had a good, fast car and put it on the top.”

He led a charge by Joe Gibbs Racing that resulted in the team claiming three of the top-four starting spots. Hamlin will have teammate Matt Kenseth alongside on the front row for the start of Sunday’s race. Fellow-JGR driver Kyle Busch will start fourth.

“Qualifying, I didn’t have as big of a problem today,” Kenseth said. “I was one of the most conservative guys, probably, just entering real straight, entering underneath it. It’s just strange the way they applied it (the PJ1 traction compound). They applied it so far out on the straightaway, off of (turn) two and into three that it’s impossible not to really drive across it. It was a challenging day, but it ended decent for us.”

The lone non-Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the top-four on the starting grid will be Kevin Harvick, pole sitter for the last two Cup Series races at Charlotte. Harvick was fastest in each of the first two rounds of qualifying, and his 28.039-second/192.589 mph lap in the opening round was the fastest lap, overall, of the three-round session. It was the only lap turned in qualifying over 192 mph.

“I didn’t feel like I got to the green quite as good, and I felt like I had a little bit to spare in one and I didn’t,” Harvick said of his round-three run. “I got the ground just a little bit and got up a foot and just had to wait a split-second, but we have a really good car.  We had three good rounds, a good starting spot and we’ll go from there.”

Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Clint Bowyer, qualified fifth.

Three drivers — Erik Jones, Corey LaJoie and Brett Moffitt — failed to make qualifying attempts. Jones’ team was unable to get his car through inspection in time. The BK Racing teams of LaJoie and Moffitt didn’t participate in practice or qualifying Friday. As a result, they’ll start in the last three positions, 38th through 40th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. got to the second round in a backup car after a practice crash earlier in the day, but the second round was where his qualifying effort ended and he wound up 23rd. Busch, Brad Keselowski and David Ragan also made contact with the wall in the day’s lone practice session, but their teams were able to repair the damage, keeping their drivers in their primary cars.

Earnhardt’s team got his backup through inspection just in time to make a qualifying run in the final minute of the first round, and he managed to knock Hendrick Motorsports teammate and eighth-time Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson out of an advancing position. Johnson wound up 25th on the starting grid.

Like Busch, Keselowski also got his repaired car to the final round of qualifying to qualify sixth.

Here’s a look at the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Bank of America 500:
Row 1 — Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota), Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 2 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 3 — Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 4 — Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford)
Row 5 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 6 — Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford)
Row 7 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 8 — Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 12 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 13 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford)
Row 14 — Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 15 — Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford), Landon Cassill (No. 34 Ford)
Row 16 — David Ragan (No. 38 Ford), Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — B.J. McLeod (No. 51 Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Gray Gaulding (No. 55 Toyota), Timmy Hill (No. 66 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 33 Chevrolet), Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota)
Row 20 — Corey LaJoie (No. 23 Toyota), Brett Moffitt (No. 83 Toyota)

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on October 7, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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