MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Denny Hamlin will lead the field to start the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway after earning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole with a 97.840 mph lap Saturday afternoon. This is Hamlin’s 33rd career pole, his third this season and the fourth at the 526-mile track.
“It (qualifying run) was good,” said Hamlin. “We definitely didn’t expect to run that fast for sure. We didn’t make any mock run and the fastest in practice was something like a 59 or something like that, so certainly caught us off guard, but really I just drove it to its capability and that’s kind of all I had.
“I knew when I ran it, I was pretty happy with the lap, so to have the pole is obviously a huge, huge deal here.”
Chase Elliott was the second fastest with a lap speed of 97.694 but will have to drop to the rear of the field for the start of the race after he blew an engine in practice Saturday morning.
“We broke a motor there, five laps in,” he said, “and it’s obviously an unfortunate way to start the day, for sure. But, it’s one of those things really that it kind of is what it is at this point and everybody is working hard to try to get our car back put together to get some practice in this next one. At this point, that’s the most important thing.”
Martin Truex Jr. qualified third with a 97.694 lap followed by Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell.
Playoff driver Ryan Blaney (eighth in standings) will start sixth. Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, and Daniel Suarez qualified seventh – ninth, respectively. Joey Logano who is currently fourth in the standings will start in 10th.
Of the remaining Playoff drivers, Kyle Busch qualified 13th, Kyle Larson 14th and Kevin Harvick will start 22nd.
Daniel Hemric was the fastest qualifying rookie, qualifying 18th, and is optimistic heading into the race.
“Since we unloaded, our Chevy Accessories ZL1 was good,” he said. “Looking forward to an opportunity to redeem ourselves from our run in the spring. It will be interesting. We had a solid lap. Looking forward to tomorrow.”
Sunday’s First Data 500 is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon on NBCSN with radio coverage by MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
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