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NASCAR Cup: Denny Hamlin wins Toyota’s first pole of season at Bristol

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – AUGUST 16: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, celebrates with the Pole Award qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 16, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

A Denny Hamlin lap that clocked in at 14.848 seconds/129.230 mph during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying Friday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race gave Toyota its first Cup Series pole of 2019, 24 races into the season. It’s Hamlin’s fourth-career pole at BMS.

“Fortunately for us, qualifying doesn’t pay any money, and it doesn’t pay any points. It really hasn’t weighed on us,” Hamlin said. “I mean, obviously, with the aero package that we have, you can make your car on most tracks as fast or slow as you want to, but you have concerns about racing after that. We’ve really focused on making our cars race well, and that’s where all the accolades come from. Sure, you want to win a pole. That’s obviously a big deal. If you don’t win a pole for your organization, or a manufacturer, or yourself in a year, it maybe shows a little lack of speed, but I certainly knew that we’ve had race-winning speed all year long. With the new qualifying format and all that, it’s not been our focus. It’s been the race. Certainly, we knew short tracks would be an opportunity where we could get that done.”

Kyle Larson qualified second to start alongside Hamlin on the front row. The front-row starters were the only two among the 39 drivers who made qualifying attempts to post a lap over 129 mph.

“I was just a little too tight, but I feel like being a little bit too tight was better than being a little bit too free, I think,” Larson said. “I saw so many people get loose through (turns) three and four, but I was just a little bit too tight to kind of roll through the center like I needed to and get to the gas just a little bit sooner. But, overall, I’m happy with how we qualified and the grip I had in my car. In practice, I was really loose. So, hopefully, we’ll have a good race tomorrow and try and get my first Bristol Cup win.”

Hamlin will be joined in the top-10 of the starting grid by two of his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, as Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones qualified third and ninth, respectively. Matt DiBenedetto, whose Leavine Family Racing team has a technical alliance with JGR, also qualified in the top-10 in seventh. The remaining Gibbs driver, Kyle Busch, who leads active drivers in Bristol wins with eight, wound up with the 31st starting spot after being the first driver on the track in qualifying.

Busch isn’t the only big-name driver near the back, though. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 30th.

The provisional pole changed hands several times early in Friday’s qualifying session. DiBenedetto, who went out seventh, was the first driver to hold the provisional top spot for a significant amount of time, remaining atop the scoring pylon until Chase Elliott went out 20th in the qualifying order. Elliott was eventually shuffled down to the sixth starting spot.

Truex also held the provisional pole for awhile before Larson ran 0.009 mph faster. Larson’s time at the top was short-lived, though, as the eventual pole sitter was the next car onto the track.

Other top-10 starters include Kurt Busch in fourth, Aric Almirola in fifth, Kevin Harvick eighth, and Alex Bowman 10th.

Below, is the complete starting grid for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway:

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Posted by on August 17, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,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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