Denny Hamlin appears to be on a mission since returning to the track from his back injury. And today his mission was accomplished when he scored his third pole of the season for the 44th running of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.
Hamlin ran a fast lap of 22.788 seconds at a speed of 157.978 miles per hour. In addition to being his third pole of the season, it is his second pole at Dover, and his 15th pole in the Cup Series.
“It’s been good,” Hamlin said in the media center after his pole run. “To have the FedEx Freight/Autism Speaks Toyota on the pole for the title race is awesome and hopefully we get to raise a little bit more awareness and get a little bit more media attention for that.”
Hamlin acknowledged that his good qualifying runs are also instrumental in his recent race results.
“I feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in how to qualify better,” Hamlin said. “It’s all helping out our cause for the moment.”
In spite of feeling like he has learned lessons, Hamlin really did not believe that he had even run a lap worthy of pole material after his fast lap.
“When I ran the lap, I wasn’t in love with it,” Hamlin said. “I thought fundamentally I didn’t do that great of a job.”
“I knew the track conditions were really bad,” Hamlin continued. “ In the back of my mind, I’m saying I’m preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
“We were just counting down and saying, “Can’t be any worse than sixth, can’t be any worse than fifth.”
“And we’re on the front row,” Hamlin said. “It’s cool that we’re giving our pit crew yet again a huge advantage when those guys are already the best on pit road.”
While Hamlin is feeling good as far as recovering from his back injury, he admitted to taking some extra precautions for his own comfort in the race car.
“We have some lumbar support,” Hamlin said. “We have some air bags in the seat itself to help with comfort.”
“I did switch up my belt configuration to help as well,” Hamlin continued. “I think overall I’m pretty comfortable right now, really as comfortable as I’ve been.”
“That extra lumbar support definitely helps.”
Martin Truex Jr. will start right next to Hamlin, securing the outside pole for Sunday’s race at his home track. His NAPA Auto Parts Toyota ran a lap of 22.814 seconds at a speed of 157.798 miles per hour.
This was Truex’s eighth top-10 start of the season and his seventh in 15 races at the Monster Mile.
“It was a good lap for sure,” Truex said. “You always want to come here and get the pole.”
“I love this place so much and have so many fans in this area,” Truex continued. “It was a solid run.”
Truex Jr. admitted that the track really was much slicker than even in practice. And the driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota said he might just have left a little bit out there because of it.
“The track was hotter, it was slick and pretty dang hard to drive,” Truex said. “I probably left maybe a little bit out there.”
“I was a tiny bit conservative in one spot, otherwise it was a great lap,” Truex continued. “The guys did a pretty good job getting the balance right to where we had good speed.”
“I’m proud of them for that and now we can go work on Sunday.”
Kyle Busch, who secured the third place starting honors said his lap was just ‘fine.’ The driver of the No.18 M&Ms Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing posted his ninth top-10 start at the Monster Mile with a lap of 22.820 seconds and 157.756 miles per hour.
“We were just a little too tight and I had to slow up a little bit through turns three and four and just missed out getting another pole for use this year,” Busch said. “Great effort by the team and guys.”
“They did a really good job of having the car snugged up just enough for me there where we made a good lap and we were top-three so we’re pleased with that,” Busch continued. “It will give us a better pick at pit selection there and we can see the front.”
Teammate Matt Kenseth, who will start fourth in the race on Sunday, was happy yet unhappy with his qualifying run.
“I honestly thought this morning we were going to have a shot at the pole today,” the driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota said. “So, just a little off but I was pretty happy with it.”
“The track changed just a little more than we anticipated.”
Ryan Newman, in the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, led the Stewart Haas Racing team in qualifying. He secured the final spot in the top-five with a run of 22.826 seconds and a speed of 157.715 miles per hour.
|FedEx 400, Dover Int’l Speedway|
|2||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||157.798||22.814|
|12||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||157.24||22.895|
|14||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevrolet||156.713||22.972|
|23||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #||Ford||155.239||23.19|
|37||7||Dave Blaney||Chevrolet||153.557||Owner Points|
|38||93||Travis Kvapil||Toyota||153.492||Owner Points|
|39||10||Danica Patrick #||Chevrolet||153.381||Owner Points|
|40||36||JJ Yeley||Chevrolet||152.892||Owner Points|
|41||35||Josh Wise(i)||Ford||152.355||Owner Points|
|42||32||Timmy Hill #||Ford||150.912||Owner Points|
|43||44||Scott Riggs||Ford||150.71||Owner Points|