By Reid Spencer|NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. – If it’s pole day in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing must be celebrating.
Denny Hamlin powered his No. 11 Toyota around .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway in 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) on Friday to win the pole for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race (on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET).
In breaking Kevin Harvick’s August 2014 track qualifying record by .005 seconds, Hamlin won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his third at Bristol and the 22nd of his career.
JGR swept the top three spots in qualifying for the second straight week, having accomplished the feat last Saturday on the two-mile track at Michigan International Speedway. The pole was JGR’s fifth straight on an oval track (AJ Allmendinger, in a JTG Daugherty Chevrolet, claimed the top starting spot for the Aug. 9 race on the road course at Watkins Glen).
Hamlin edged teammate Kyle Busch (131.263 mph) by .016 seconds. Carl Edwards (130.655 mph) took the third starting spot, followed by David Ragan in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota (130.460 mph) and Joey Logano in a Team Penske Ford (130.344 mph).
Hamlin also won the pole for Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race.
“To have that two nights in a row here is hopefully going to pay dividends,” Hamlin said. “We’re excited. Bristol’s been a great track for me in the past, and we’ve got nothing to lose this weekend, just gearing up for the Chase, so I think our FedEx team’s ready.”
Hamlin has a victory at Bristol in addition to his two poles, and with a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup position guaranteed by virtue of his victory at Martinsville in April, he can go all-out for a win on Saturday night without fear of consequences.
Busch fought handling issues in the final two rounds of knockout qualifying and went for broke on his final attempt in the last round.
“We were just a little too free there the second segment and the first run of the third segment,” Busch said. “It’s a little edgy up there, so you try not to push too hard, but still make a good lap and come back safely.
“Then there at the end we tried a ‘Hail Mary’ and it worked. It picked us up speed, but it didn’t pick us up that spot.”
Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Clint Bowyer andJimmie Johnson grabbed the sixth through 10th spots on the grid, respectively. The qualifying effort was Stenhouse’s best of the year.
Jeff Gordon will start 24th in his last race at Bristol as a full-time Sprint Cup driver.
Travis Kvapil, Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
Irwin Tools Night Race Starting Lineup: