Denny Hamlin went out last but ended up first Friday night. Hamlin was the last driver to take a lap in the final of three rounds of knockout qualifying; however, he put down the fastest lap and secured the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Hamlin’s lap of 22.483 seconds translated to 160.121 miles per hour giving the Joe Gibbs Racing driver his first pole of the season and the 21st of his career. It is Hamlin’s third pole at Dover and his first since the fall of 2013.
“Well, we still haven’t won here, but we’ve been more competitive for sure,” Hamlin said. “Whatever it is about the qualifying here, it just seems to suit myself and my driving style. We’ve qualified well here in the past, but haven’t always raced that well. I’m pretty confident come Sunday, we’ll be contenders.”
Hamlin said he has a bit more confidence than in years past. He was part of a Goodyear tire test at the one mile concrete oval just a few weeks ago.
“Really just from the extra laps that I got here from the test is what gives me that confidence,” Hamlin said. “I think overall we’re just clicking away and getting a little bit better as the season goes and this is a good sign.”
Martin Truex Jr. will start second. The New Jersey native considers Dover his home track and has won here before; he held the pole for a brief few seconds Friday. He grabbed the top spot with :45 seconds to go in the final five-minute session only to see Hamlin snatch it away seconds later.
“We were close,” Truex said. “For whatever reason, we thought we were in good shape, and then right there, I went to go for it and for some reason the car just got really tight laying it down in the corners. So, we missed it by a little bit.”
“We have an awesome race car,” the fall 2007 Dover winner added. “We thought we were okay in practice. It didn’t feel like we were a front row car, and we made some adjustments. They hit it damn near perfect; we just needed a little bit. Another good day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I can’t wait to get to work on race trim and see what we can do on Sunday.”
Greg Biffle put down the top speed of the first session, 160.499 mph, which lasted 20 minutes. He transferred to the third session and ended up with a seventh place starting spot.
“I am encouraged with where our lap times are.” Biffle said. “We are less than a tenth off the pole. A tenth of a second, if I had one more chance at it I think I could have done that.”
For the second week the four Hendrick Motorsports entries failed to advance to the final round. Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson will start 14th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 16th, Jeff Gordon 22nd and Kasey Kahne 25th.
“I think the track might be a touch different, but our car was really different,” Kahne said. “The whole car just really shook. When it landed in the corner it even vibrated and shook and bounced and did everything worse than in the straightaway. It didn’t do that in practice. So, I’m wondering first that maybe there’s an unbalanced wheel or tire or something like that, or else like the driveline or something got off somehow from the first practice. The splitter is not really on the track, so I don’t think it could be that. So, I’m a little confused as to why it would be so bad. It was really bad.”
Kyle Larson will start third, Matt Kenseth fourth, with Joey Logano fifth. Kevin Harvick will start sixth, Biffle seventh, last week’s winner at Charlotte Carl Edwards will start eighth; Rickey Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch round out the top 10. Travis Kvapil and Jeff Green failed to make the field. The full qualifying results can be found here. The full lineup can be found here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover will take the green flag just after 1 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on Fox Sports 1 starting at 11:30 a.m. ET.