Martinsville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Denny Hamlin grabbed the pole for
Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race after setting a new track qualifying record at
Hamlin made a lap around this 0.526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval at 99.595 mph
during Friday's qualifying for his 17th career pole, including his personal-
best and series-high fifth this season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver missed the
spring race at Martinsville while he was recovering from a compression
fracture in his lower back that he sustained during an accident in the March
24 event in Fontana, Calif.
Martinsville is one of Hamlin's best tracks, as he has won four Sprint Cup
races here. He had three consecutive victories at this track from 2009-10.
"I knew we were going to be pretty strong, and I knew we had a shot at the
pole," Hamlin said. "Beyond that, I thought our car was pretty good in race
trim. Usually, anytime we qualify on the pole, it bodes well for us on Sunday.
Hopefully, this weekend is no different from that."
Jimmie Johnson, who took over the lead in the Chase point standings last
weekend at Talladega, will share the front row with Hamlin after posting a lap
at 93.344 mph. Johnson has won the last two races from the pole at
Martinsville. He enters this event with just a four-point advantage over Matt
Kenseth, who qualified fourth.
Kyle Busch qualified third to give JGR three of the top-four starting
positions. Busch had the exact time/speed as Johnson, but he currently trails
Johnson by 26 points.
Clint Bowyer took the fifth spot, followed by Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, who
won at Talladega, and David Ragan. Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick completed the
top-10. Harvick is also 26 points behind Johnson. Gordon trails his Hendrick
Motorsports teammate by 34 points.
The top-18 drivers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 98.400
mph, set by Johnson in April. With this being the inaugural season of the
Gen-6 race car, it's the 18th time in 2013 that a track qualifying record in
NASCAR's top series has been broken.
Danica Patrick qualified 41st in a backup car after crashing her primary car
in practice, which was held earlier in the day.
The Sports Network