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Hamlin gives new sponsor pole in Atlanta

by Pete McCole
Saturday, September 04, 2010

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As happens regularly in NASCAR, when a driver has a new sponsor (Sports Clips), Denny Hamlin bested Ryan Newman to claim his first Coors Light Pole award of the season in Saturday night’s qualifying session for the Emory Healthcare 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Hamlin’s lap of 187.380 mph in the no. 11 SportsClips Toyota Camry was enough to top Newman - a seven-time Atlanta pole winner - and earn his eighth career pole and his first since last October’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

Newman retained the outside pole, while Kyle Busch qualified third with a top lap of 187.063, followed by Carl Edwards (186.881) and Tony Stewart (186.881).

Newman held the top spot early in the qualifying session after coming onto the track as the third qualifier and posting a lap of 187.070 mph and looked to have the top spot locked up until Hamlin took to the track late in the session.

Hamlin’s pole marks his best Atlanta start since 2006, but he has yet to win at the 1.5-mile track.

“It wasn’t perfect, but I knew it was a good lap,” said Hamlin. “My heart was racing going down the backstretch because I knew I hit turn one pretty good. I had to check up a little in three and four to keep it on the bottom. I’m not a qualifier and any of my fans know that. I’ve been very, very happy with it. I’m typically a really bad qualifier, but I definitely think we have a heck of a race car this weekend.”

Hamlin currently sits fifth in the points standings with two races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.

Although not locked into the 12-driver Chase field, Hamlin is in position to qualify for the Chase for a third straight season, and can clinch a spot in the Chase with a finish of 22nd or better in Sunday night’s race.

“Our Chase starts this weekend,” said Hamlin. “We’re bringing the best stuff that we have starting right now. We’re not waiting till the Chase, we’re bringing what we have to see where we’re going to stack up, competition-wise, these next two weeks. Obviously, we brought our best stuff here. We never qualify on the pole, we never qualify in the top-10 so this is a great step and a good sign for our team.

“These next two weeks we’re bringing everything that we’ve got to the race track, the best stuff that we have and see how we’re going to stack up against the competition these next two weeks.”

Losing the pole position, Newman also missed out on a chance at history, looking to beat the record set by Buddy Baker as the all-time leader in poles at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“We got a chance to do the Goodyear tire test, which I think definitely played to our hand,” said Newman. “I think we have a good race package as well. With all that being said, we are second. We will start up front and hopefully finish up there.”

Martin Truex, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top ten qualifiers. Jason Leffler, Landon Cassill, Scott Riggs and Todd Bodine failed to qualify for the event.

Lineup

POS CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota Sport Clips 187.380 29.587 Leader
2 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army Reserve 187.070 29.636 -0.049
3 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree 187.064 29.637 -0.050
4 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 186.881 29.666 -0.079
5 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 186.881 29.666 -0.079
6 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 186.818 29.676 -0.089
7 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Huggies 186.711 29.693 -0.106
8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 186.711 29.693 -0.106
9 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 186.692 29.696 -0.109
10 9 Kasey Kahne Ford Budweiser / Valvoline 186.667 29.700 -0.113
11 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 186.234 29.769 -0.182
12 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 186.171 29.779 -0.192
13 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Outdoors Mossy Oak 186.128 29.786 -0.199
14 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 186.040 29.800 -0.213
15 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M Scotch-Blue Painter's Tape 185.978 29.810 -0.223
16 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Insignia HDTV / Best Buy 185.972 29.811 -0.224
17 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / GoDaddy.com 185.238 29.929 -0.342
18 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation / DuPont 184.911 29.982 -0.395
19 98 Paul Menard Ford Quaker State / Menards 184.892 29.985 -0.398
20 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 184.757 30.007 -0.420
21 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 184.726 30.012 -0.425
22 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Stanley 184.671 30.021 -0.434
23 46 Michael McDowell Chevrolet Whitney Motorsports 184.603 30.032 -0.445
24 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 184.572 30.037 -0.450
25 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 184.437 30.059 -0.472
26 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 184.431 30.060 -0.473
27 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 184.333 30.076 -0.489
28 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 184.290 30.083 -0.496
29 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 184.272 30.086 -0.499
30 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal Black 184.186 30.100 -0.513
31 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 184.143 30.107 -0.520
32 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie 184.058 30.121 -0.534
33 83 Reed Sorenson Toyota Red Bull 183.503 30.212 -0.625
34 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota FrontRowJoe.com 183.097 30.279 -0.692
35 26 Patrick Carpentier Ford Air National Guard 183.055 30.286 -0.699
36 37 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 183.043 30.288 -0.701
37 38 Dave Blaney Ford A&W All American Food 182.982 30.298 -0.711
38 36 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 182.904 30.311 -0.724
39 55 Mike Bliss Toyota Prism Motorsports 182.880 30.315 -0.728
40 21 Bill Elliott Ford FordParts.com 182.380 30.398 -0.811
41 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 182.326 30.407 -0.820
42 132 Jason Leffler Toyota Braun Racing 181.777 30.499 -0.912
43 09 Landon Cassill Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 181.562 30.535 -0.948
44 66 Scott Riggs Toyota Prism Motorsports 181.123 30.609 -1.022
45 34 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 181.111 30.611 -1.024
46 164 Todd Bodine Toyota Gunselman Motorsports 181.029 30.625 -1.038
47 7 Kevin Conway* Toyota Extenze 177.573 31.221 -1.634

+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rooki

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