A broken back hasn't slowed Denny Hamlin down, as his competitors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series learned once again during Friday's qualifying session for Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.
Sidelined for five weeks after suffering a compression fracture of his first lumbar vertebra in a last-lap crash at Fontana, Calif., in late March, Hamlin won his second straight pole of the season, his second straight at Dover and the 15th of his career.
Hamlin claimed the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap at 157.978 mph (22.788 seconds) at the one-mile concrete track that had given him fits until he qualified first and finished eighth in last September's Chase race at the Monster Mile.
When Hamlin climbed from his car after the run, he indicated he would be happy with a starting spot in the top 10, but his time stood up to all challengers.
"I thought that all the strong cars were later in the field," explained Hamlin, who was the 19th of 43 drivers to attempt qualifying. "Especially the last two (Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch) were very strong. When I ran the lap, I wasn't in love with it. Fundamentally, I didn't do that great of a job, but I knew the track conditions were really bad.
"We were sixth in practice, and we were only a tenth (of a second) off of what we ran in practice (in cooler conditions). In the back of my mind, I'm preparing for the worst, hoping for the best."
Martin Truex Jr. (157.798 mph) qualified second, followed by Busch (157.756 mph), Matt Kenseth (157.736 mph) and Ryan Newman (157.715 mph).
Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray nailed down starting positions six through 10, respectively.
Kenseth, a three-time winner in the series year and Hamlin's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, joked that the driver of the No. 11 Toyota was making things tough on his fellow drivers since his return.
"I don't know why Denny has to come back and show off all the time right away," quipped Kenseth, who felt he got everything he could out of his car on the qualifying lap.
In a season where track records have fallen on a regular basis with NASCAR's new Gen-6 car, no driver in Friday's time trials came close to Jeremy Mayfield's 2004 mark of 161.522 mph. That was no surprise, given the hot, slick conditions that confronted the field during qualifying.
But Joe Gibbs Racing, the pre-eminent organization in Cup racing with five victories so far this year, owned three of the top four starting spots, as Toyota drivers swept the top four positions on the grid for Sunday's race.
Seven-time Dover winner and Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson got sideways off Turn 4 on his money lap and qualified 24th at 155.206 mph. Johnson needs a victory on Sunday to break a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most career wins at the Monster Mile.
|1||Denny Hamlin||11||Toyota||FedEx Freight / Autism Speaks||157.978||22.788||Leader|
|2||Martin Truex Jr||56||Toyota||NAPA Auto Parts||157.798||22.814||-0.026|
|4||Matt Kenseth||20||Toyota||Dollar General||157.736||22.823||-0.035|
|5||Ryan Newman||39||Chevrolet||Haas Automation||157.715||22.826||-0.038|
|6||Mark Martin||55||Toyota||Aaron's Dream Machine||157.604||22.842||-0.054|
|7||Kevin Harvick||29||Chevrolet||Jimmy John's||157.549||22.850||-0.062|
|8||Brad Keselowski||2||Ford||Miller Lite||157.480||22.860||-0.072|
|10||Jamie McMurray||1||Chevrolet||Parade Media Group||157.405||22.871||-0.083|
|11||Kasey Kahne||5||Chevrolet||Farmers Insurance||157.350||22.879||-0.091|
|12||Dale Earnhardt Jr||88||Chevrolet||National Guard||157.240||22.895||-0.107|
|13||Kurt Busch||78||Chevrolet||Furniture Row / Sealy||157.054||22.922||-0.134|
|14||Juan Pablo Montoya||42||Chevrolet||Energizer||156.713||22.972||-0.184|
|15||Clint Bowyer||15||Toyota||5-Hour Energy||156.556||22.995||-0.207|
|16||Paul Menard||27||Chevrolet||Menards / Libman||156.175||23.051||-0.263|
|19||Greg Biffle||16||Ford||Rite Aid / Ace||155.952||23.084||-0.296|
|20||Jeff Gordon||24||Chevrolet||AARP Credit Cards from Chase||155.696||23.122||-0.334|
|21||Landon Cassill||33||Chevrolet||Bicycle NASCAR Playing Cards||155.440||23.160||-0.372|
|22||Tony Stewart||14||Chevrolet||Code 3 Associates / Mobil 1||155.407||23.165||-0.377|
|23||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||17||Ford||Best Buy||155.239||23.190||-0.402|
|24||Jimmie Johnson||48||Chevrolet||Lowe's / Monsters University||155.206||23.195||-0.407|
|25||Austin Dillon||51||Chevrolet||Phoenix Construction||155.146||23.204||-0.416|
|26||Bobby Labonte||47||Toyota||Scott Products||155.086||23.213||-0.425|
|27||David Reutimann||83||Toyota||Burger King / Dr. Pepper||155.059||23.217||-0.429|
|28||David Gilliland||38||Ford||Long John Silver's||154.972||23.230||-0.442|
|30||Marcos Ambrose||9||Ford||DeWalt / ACE / CMN||154.619||23.283||-0.495|
|31||Michael McDowell||98||Ford||Phil Parsons Racing||154.573||23.290||-0.502|
|32||Mike Bliss||19||Chevrolet||Plinker Tactical||154.500||23.301||-0.513|
|34||David Stremme||30||Toyota||Widow Wax||154.295||23.332||-0.544|
|36||Joe Nemechek||87||Toyota||Royal Teak||153.636||23.432||-0.644|
|38||Travis Kvapil||93||Toyota||Burger King / Dr. Pepper||153.492||23.454||-0.666|
|40||J.J. Yeley||36||Chevrolet||DOHS Click it or Ticket||152.892||23.546||-0.758|
|41||Josh Wise||35||Ford||MDS Transport||152.355||23.629||-0.841|
|42||Timmy Hill||32||Ford||OXY Water||150.912||23.855||-1.067|
|43||Scott Riggs||44||Ford||No Label Watches||150.710||23.887||-1.099|