Denny does it: Hamlin tops in unique All-Star qualifying format
Saturday night’s qualifying session for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is unlike any other format the Sprint Cup Series teams encounter all season long.
Under the single-car qualifying format, each driver takes a total of three laps with a mandatory four-tire pit stop included. Making things even more interesting, there was no speed limit on pit road, with drivers coming off the Turn 4 banking and onto pit road at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour.
Denny Hamlin and his team led by crew chief Dave Rogers topped the rest of the 20-car field with their effort both on the track and on pit road. Even though he has said he is not a fan of this format, Hamlin made the most of it and will start Saturday’s All-Star Race from the pole.
Hamlin entered pit road at 142 mph and his pit crew changed four tires in just 12.8 seconds, the fastest pit stop of all teams.
While Hamlin had the opportunity to practice getting on and off pit road with no speed limit, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer did not. The pair raced their way into the Sprint All-Star Race through Friday night’s Sprint Showdown.
Despite the lack of practice, Biffle rocketed to second on the speed charts behind Hamlin. After a successful qualifying lap, Biffle’s crew chief Matt Puccia told the team, "We can do it from here."
Bowyer was fourth-fastest in qualifying, with help in part from his 162 mph pit road entry speed.
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski was third-fastest in the session in "The Original" throwback paint scheme on his No. 2 Team Penske Ford.
Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five for Saturday night’s non-points event.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch made his much-anticipated return to Sprint Cup Series action with this weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race events.
The driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota as fastest in Friday’s lone practice session and showed a lot of speed on his qualifying lap. He had so much speed, in fact, that he overshot his pit stall by a wide margin, forcing him to back up before his crew went to work.
Busch said he just misjudged the speed and the grip of the sticker tires for sliding the No. 18 Toyota through his stall. As a result, Busch will start 19th.