NSCS: Joe Gibbs Rising; Denny Hamlin Continues Roll With Top Qualifying Effort at Dover

Jacob Seelman Featured, NASCAR, Northeast 0 Comments

DOVER, Del. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Nick Laham/Getty Images North America photo —

If Joe Gibbs Racing’s sweep of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway the last two weeks was the beginning of a resurgence, Denny Hamlin’s pole qualifying effort on Friday afternoon was a statement.

JGR is back.

Hamlin, driving the No. 11 FedEx Cares Toyota, powered to the top of the scoring pylon during the final round of knockout qualifying with a fast lap of 22.483 seconds (160.121 mph) to claim top honors, though his lap was well off of Brad Keselowski’s track record of 21.892 seconds (164.444 mph) set last May.

The Coors Light Pole Award was Hamlin’s first of the 2015 season and the 21st of his Sprint Cup career.

“It’s great,” said Hamlin, who is now a three-time Dover pole-winner (September 2012, May 2013 and today). “Obviously our car’s shown speed all day long, which is something that we haven’t had lately, so we’re kind of building and getting a little bit better and starting to figure out our setups and whatnot. So we’re getting better and obviously this kind of shows it.”

Alongside Hamlin on the front row will be the driver who has led the most laps in the last two Sprint Cup points events yet failed to win, Martin Truex Jr. The driver of the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet posted a time of 22.539 seconds (159.723 mph) to slot onto the outside of the front row. Truex scored his first career Sprint Cup win at Dover back in 2007.

Kyle Larson scored a surprise third-place effort for Chip Ganassi Racing (22.545/159.681) and Bristol winner Matt Kenseth will start fourth (22.546/159.674). Joey Logano was the best Ford driver in Coors Light Pole Qualifying, and will start fifth (22.557/159.596).

Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Charlotte winner Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch rounded out the rest of the first five rows, with Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon the final two drivers to advance to the final round of qualifying.

Kurt Busch was the first driver to miss the cut for the final round and will start 13th in search of his second victory of the season.

The session was abysmal for Hendrick Motorsports by their usual lofty standards, with all four cars failing to crack the final twelve. Jimmie Johnson, who led Sprint Cup practice on Friday afternoon, was only 14th in qualifying, with teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd) also in the bottom half of round two. Kasey Kahne never even made it out of round one, the first car to miss the opening cut in 25th.

Johnson cited track changes as the major reason his Lowes team struggled in qualifying. The nine-time Dover winner will be looking to add to his legendary record at the Monster Mile with a tenth win on Sunday.

“I think, in a sense, we maybe didn’t make the changes we need to or thought we needed to change, because the car had so much speed in that first practice session, but it’s a totally different race track,” Johnson said. “We tried to plan ahead and made some small changes, but it wasn’t enough.”

Defending FedEx 400 polesitter Brad Keselowski was another big name who struggled in qualifying, and the Team Penske driver will roll from 19th on the grid on Sunday.

Stewart Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart (26th) and Danica Patrick (33rd) failed to advance out of the first round — adding to the list of standouts with a long way to come in Sunday’s event.

Jeff Green and Travis Kvapil failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

The FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks takes the green flag Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. Eastern, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

RESULTS: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; Coors Light Pole Qualifying; Dover International Speedway; May 29, 2015

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Kyle Larson
  4. Matt Kenseth
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kevin Harvick
  7. Greg Biffle
  8. Carl Edwards
  9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  10. Kyle Busch
  11. Jamie McMurray
  12. Austin Dillon
  13. Kurt Busch
  14. Jimmie Johnson
  15. David Ragan
  16. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  17. Ryan Newman
  18. Paul Menard
  19. Brad Keselowski
  20. Clint Bowyer
  21. Casey Mears
  22. Jeff Gordon
  23. Aric Almirola
  24. Justin Allgaier
  25. Kasey Kahne
  26. Tony Stewart
  27. Brian Scott
  28. Sam Hornish Jr.
  29. A.J. Allmendinger
  30. Alex Bowman
  31. Trevor Bayne
  32. David Gilliland
  33. Danica Patrick
  34. Michael Annett
  35. Jeb Burton
  36. Matt DiBenedetto
  37. Cole Whitt
  38. Brett Moffitt
  39. Josh Wise
  40. J.J. Yeley
  41. Brendan Gaughan
  42. Mike Bliss
  43. Landon Cassill

DNQ: Jeff Green, Travis Kvapil

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