HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Denny Hamlin extended the streak of non-championship drivers winning the pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway to four straight years on Friday night, snatching the top spot away from Martin Truex Jr. in the final moments of knockout qualifying.
Hamlin powered to the 26th pole of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career with a sizzling time of 31.038 seconds (173.980 mph) in his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, earning prime pit selection ahead of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM).
“We had them there by a little bit,” said Hamlin, who actually lost time coming to the checkered flag but hung on for the pole by .005 of a second.
“I messed up (Turns) 3 and 4 a bunch, but honestly it was a great run. We made some great adjustments there in between runs. Our FedEx Camry was obviously very fast that last run and I so love this racetrack. I wish we would have our chance (at contending for the championship), but it’ll be another day and another year for us.”
Truex will start the furthest forward among the Championship 4, joining Hamlin on the front row after qualifying second-fastest (31.043/173.952) in the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota.
The Mayetta, N.J. native hopes to join the ranks of the elite with his first-career Cup title on Sunday.
“It was a good day overall. That was a bit dramatic, but we did miss it a little bit in that last round,” admitted Truex. “We lost more grip than I anticipated and we made some adjustments, knowing it was going to go that way, but it just wasn’t quite far enough.”
“I’m so proud of this group. Five one-thousandths off from being a perfect day, but my guys did what they needed to do today. We’ll get to work tomorrow. So far, I’ve been really happy with the feel in the car. The balance has been really close every run and I don’t see it being a lot different going forward.”
Kyle Busch will roll off third in the No. 18 M&Ms Caramel Toyota, as he pursues his second championship in the last three years.
“I touched the apron in (Turn) 1,” lamented Busch. “I tried to get in there and get to the bottom quicker so I could get to the gas quicker, but I just touched the apron a little bit and it shot me off the bottom some … so I definitely gave up some (time over there.”
“I tried it make it up back up in (Turns) 3 and 4 and kind of overdid it. It wasn’t a bad lap, but I think it definitely was pole-worthy though … so I hate we weren’t able to get the No. 1 pit stall. I felt like that was a great opportunity. I felt like when Truex ran the .043 that there was a shot out there for a ninety-something and that’s kind of what I was shooting for was trying to find that 90 and be number one.”
Continued on the next page…