Hamlin leads 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing in Bristol qualifying
The hottest team in NASCAR turned up the fire up again on Friday, as Denny Hamlin won the pole for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, leading a 1-2-3 Joe Gibbs Racing sweep of the top three positions.
Hamlin had a best lap of 131.407 miles per hour in the No. 11 JGR Toyota, which was just enough to best teammates Kyle Busch at 131.263 mph and Carl Edwards at 130.655 mph. David Ragan made it an all-Toyota front two rows, qualifying fourth in the lame-duck No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Joey Logano was fifth in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford, followed by his teammate, Brad Keselowski. The first Chevrolet was reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick in seventh in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing entry.
JGR Toyotas have won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-high nine races this season, including six of the last eight. All four of the team’s drivers have won so far in 2015, and they are the prohibitive favorites again this weekend.
"I had a little bit left in the tank, for sure," said Hamlin, who earned his second pole of the season and the 22nd of his career. "The last round is definitely the one that pays."
Hamlin was pleased with the performance of his car.
"It’s just a great day," said Hamlin, who also won the pole over Kyle Busch for Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race. "Our car’s had speed in it all day and it looks like I really got the car working the way I needed it to there in the final practice."
"A JGR front row for both races ought to be pretty good," said second-qualifier Busch. "We just have to make sure we do all the right things and run a good, smooth 500 laps."
The recent struggles of Hendrick Motorsports continued at Bristol as Kasey Kahne (19th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20th) and Jeff Gordon (24th) all came up short in their attempts to make it to the third and final round of qualifying.
"My car is just real tight on the exit and very loose getting," said Gordon, who is racing for the final time at Bristol. "… I was hoping we were going to qualify better than this."
Several big-name drivers were unable to advance to the second round of qualifying, including Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Danica Patrick (32nd) and Tony Stewart (40th). Paul Menard, who is looking to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time, was a hugely disappointing 29th.
Three drivers failed to qualify: Travis Kvapil, Reed Sorenson and Jeb Burton.