Hamlin Best in Bristol Qualifying
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin on August 23, 2013 | 6:46 P.M. EST
Hamlin scored his first Sprint Cup pole at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Denny Hamlin hopes his pole winning performance at Bristol Motor Speedway will turn around a tough summer stretch for the No. 11 FedEx team.
Hamlim, who has yet to finish in the top 15 in the last nine races, won the pole for Saturday night's IRWIN Tools Night Race with a lap of 128.969 mph. It's his first pole at BMS, fourth of the season and 16th of his career.
"Hopefully it's something that we can get our season kind of turned around with," Hamlin said. "The last few months have definetly been really tough on us, but you have to power through it and figure out how you can get better. Every team goes through stretches like this."
Hamlin will be joined on the front row by Kurt Busch, who posted a lap of 128.770 mph after his team repaired damage to the car from in practice earlier in the day.
“To work as hard as they did on this car it’s one of those moments where everybody just had to roll up their sleeves, jump in and we smiled all the way through it going ‘hey it’s fun to do an old school thrash and then we got through it’,” Busch said.
The runner-up qualifying effort for Busch marked his seventh front-row start of the season with Furniture Row Racing.
After posting the 20th and 15th-best lap in today's respective practice sessions, Carl Edwards qualified third with a lap of 128.692 mph.
"I was disappointed to see these guys out-qualify us, but I’m still real excited about the race," Edwards said. "We’ve got a good pit stall selection now and with three races to go before the Chase starts, our mission is to win a couple of these races and, at the same time, try some things that we haven’t been able to try so we can be best prepared to go out for the final 10 races and win the championship.”
Brian Vickers, who learned this morning that he will not have his crew chief Rodney Childers next season, qualified fourth with Matt Kenseth rounding out the top five.
"Rodney is always an integral part of every team, but there’s a lot of great guys on this Aaron’s Dream Machine team," Vickers said. "Obviously, we’ve run pretty awesome in all three practices today. Like I said, it’s not just one person. Really proud of the effort by everyone today considering everything. The good news is that we’ve got the opportunity to go find some great people for this team and we’re on the hunt now and there’s some really good people out there. We’re going to hopefully find the right one and still go race for a championship next year.”
Last week's winner Joey Logano, spring Bristol winner Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola completed the top 10.
Mark Martin qualified 11th in his first start subbing for the injured Tony Stewart.
“I am pretty happy and I was extremely challenged by the newness and differences in the racecar than what I have been driving," Martin said. "I haven’t been here in two years, and the racetrack ……because it’s been ground up top…..I haven’t been on that before, so the race team had to be patient and we lost a lot of time in practice in just getting to know each other."
Ryan Truex will start 18th in his Sprint Cup debut driving the No. 51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing.
"I got a little scared I guess….a little gun shy to get up near the wall," Truex said. "I got in the wall a little bit in practice in the end. So I was a little gun shy but proud of these guys."
After a brief shower earlier in the day washed some of the rubber away in the top groove and a number of drivers had difficulty pushing the edge in qualifying for that fast lap. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch even made a turn around on the track before taking the green flag on their attempt.
"I had an exciting (turn) three and four coming to the green," Johnson said. "I had to turn around and take another shot at it."
Johnson qualified 13th, but Busch wasn't as lucky as he made contact with the wall on his timed lap, forcing him to the rear of the field for the 500-lap race.