Denny Hamlin, who has had a very troublesome season, finally had something to smile about. On Friday, he drove his No. 11 Fed-Ex Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the top spot in qualifying for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Hamlin turned a lap of 128.969 mph to secure the top spot. The pole was Hamlin’s fourth of the season, and 16th of his career.
Hamlin who sat out four races earlier this season after receiving a back injury in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, has had very little success since his return. He did score poles at Charlotte and Dover, race results, however, have not been very good.
Hamlin talked about the lap after qualifying saying, “We felt like we had a pretty good handle on our car during practice and for whatever reason when that small rain storm came, it obviously changed the race track a bunch –washed out a little bit of what cushion we had on the top line away and you saw a lot of guys slipping over that edge during qualifying.”
Kurt Busch continued his streak of solid runs with a second place starting spot. Busch who scraped the wall on one of his qualifying laps turned a lap of 128.770 mph, just shy of Hamlin’s pole speed. Busch was in the news again this week has Stewart-Hass Racing has confirmed they have made him an offer to driver for them next year. He
Roush-Fenway Racing driver, Carl Edwards, took the third spot in his No. 99 Fastenal Ford, with a lap of 128.692 mph. Edwards commented, “We’re qualifying ok, we just need to be a little bit faster, I believe. This is a fun racetrack and I am hoping tomorrow night that the top slows down a little bit and you can have some good two or three wide racing here tomorrow.”
Starting fourth will be Brian Vickers who announced early this week that he will be the full time drive for the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. It was then announced later in the week that he would finish the season in the seat, with the exception of Talladega, when Mark Martin was granted his release to drive the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for the injured Tony Stewart. Vickers turned in a lap of 128.684 mph.
Joe Gibb Racing driver, Matt Kenseth, rounded out the top five in his Dollar General Toyota. Kenseth who is tied with series points leader Jimmie Johnson with four wins on the season, turned in a lap of 128.692 mph.
Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were among several driver who had issues who had handling issues in qualifying. After slipping on lap one, Busch turned around, drove backwards around the track and restarted in an attempt to get a good second lap. He then, however, tagged the wall coming out of turn two and will start 43rd on Saturday.
Other notables: Last week’s winner, Joey Logano, will start sixth, Mark Martin rolls off eleventh in his debut in the No. 14 car. Points leader Jimmie Johnson starts 13th, Dale Earnhardt Jr will take the green in 19th.
The Irwin Tools Night race will start at 7:30 pm local time on Saturday night.