Home State Pole For Hamlin

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RICHMOND, Va. – Just minutes after fellow Virginian Jeff Burton took the Busch Series pole, Denny Hamlin ran a fast lap of 127.986 mph to take the top spot for tomorrow night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup rookie driver of the No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet took his fourth career pole and first at the .75-mile Richmond Raceway.

Even with the top spot, Hamlin was critical of his lap - feeling he could have been even faster.

"Actually I overdrove Turns 1 and 2 but at the same instance we hit 3 and 4 pretty good,” said Hamlin. “It was good enough to hold on and I guess that's all that matters."

Nonetheless, It is just the start the young driver was looking for as he needs a finish of 16th or better to secure a spot in the upcoming “Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.”

“I think qualifying up front is going to be a big deal. Hopefully we can get out there and hopefully at least lead one lap and hopefully then we can finish 17th instead of 16th [to clinch a spot in the Chase]."

Continuing with his momentum from earlier in the afternoon, Burton will start alongside Hamlin on the front row after running a best lap of 127.805 mph.

Fellow “Chase” contenders Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick round out the top five qualifiers.

NEXTEL Cup championship points’ leader Matt Kenseth will start tomorrow night’s 300 mile event from 10th, with practice pace-setter Kyle Busch behind him in 12th.

Kasey Kahne, the sole driver outside the top 10 in the standings with a chance to qualify for the “Chase” will start 20th – ahead of two of the eight drivers who he could possibly knock out of championship contention; Dale Earnhardt Jr. (33rd) and Tony Stewart (40th).

Even though he is ahead of some of his direct competitors, Kahne was not pleased with his result.

"I was a little bit surprised. It didn’t turn. It slid real bad and the track was slippery. It was different," said the driver of the No. 9 Dodge dealers Dodge. "Ryan Newman said the same thing I just said. We heard the track had a lot of grip, and I didn’t feel like there was any grip out there at all. Things had really changed since practice."

With a lap of 125.029 mph, Kyle Petty ensured a starting spot for tomorrow’s race. It will be his 775th career start.

For the third time in 2006, Michael Waltrip failed to qualify his No. 55 NAPA Dodge into the field. Qualifying late in the session, he was unable to get anywhere near the speed needed and set a fast lap of only 123.547 mph – over 4 mph behind the polesitter’s pace.

Joining him on the failed to qualify list were Derrike Cope, Mike Wallace, Hermie Sadler and Ted Christopher.

Saturday night’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 is scheduled to take the green flag at 7:40 p.m. (ET) with live coverage available on MRN Radio beginning at 6:45 p.m. (ET).

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