Denny Hamlin beats out Kyle Larson for Bristol Pole

Denny Hamlin wins the pole at Bristol
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson played a late game of King of the Mountain in Friday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series time trials at Bristol Motor Speedway.

After 38 drivers made qualifying runs, it was Hamlin who was left at the top of the peak.

Larson was the 34th driver to take to the track, and his impressive lap at 129.004 mph (14.874 seconds) put him on the provisional pole for Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

Larson's stay on the pinnacle, however, lasted less than a minute, as Hamlin followed with a lap at 129.330 mph (14.848 seconds) to secure his first Busch Pole Award of the season, his fourth at the .533-mile high-banked concrete short track and the 31st of his career.

Strapped in his car as he readied for his run, Hamlin was unaware that Larson had jumped to the top of the speed chart. Even when he came to the media center for his post-qualifying interview, Hamlin thought he had beaten Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. to earn the first pole position of the season for Toyota.

"It was Larson?" Hamlin asked. "I was wondering why he was giving me the finger when he went by. I thought it was Martin—even better."

Based on practice, though, Hamlin was confident he could make a run at the top starting position.

Denny Hamlin
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

"I was confident, as long as the crew chief (Chris Gabehart) did his job, and I did my job, we definitely had a chance," Hamlin said. "I'm proud of this whole team for giving me such a great car. The guys are on it right now—it's just unbelievable with what they're doing with these race cars.

"I'm just trying to learn every week, doing everything I can to get better, and the results are showing it."

Hamlin has three victories this season, his most since an equal number in 2016, and he comes to Bristol riding a wave of five straight top fives and four straight top-three finishes, including a win at Pocono.

Larson, on the other hand, hopes to break a winless streak of 69 races, dating to Sept. 9, 2017 at Richmond.

"I was just a little bit too tight to kind of roll through the center like I needed to and get to the gas just a little bit sooner," Larson said of his qualifying run. "But, overall, I'm happy with how we qualified and the grip I had in my car. In practice, I was really loose. So hopefully we'll have a good race tomorrow and try and get my first Bristol Cup win."

Bristol is one of Larson's favorite tracks, and he believes that the top groove will open up during the course of Saturday's race, whereas the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks on Thursday night seemed dedicated to the lower lanes.

"We got up there enough in practice, and honestly, it felt so far the same (as in previous races)," Larson said. "But you never know how it's going to lay rubber down up there and things like that."

Truex (128.995 mph) will start third, followed by Kurt Busch (128.813 mph). Aric Almirola claimed the fifth spot on the grid in the fastest Ford at 128.770 mph.

Among the four drivers fighting most closely for the final two spots in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Ryan Newman will start 14th, Daniel Suarez 18th, Clint Bowyer 20th and Jimmie Johnson 30th. Newman and Bowyer currently occupy the last two provisional Playoff berths, with Suarez six points behind Bowyer in 16th and Johnson 12 points in arrears.


Pos # Driver Sponsor/Make Lap Speed
1 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota 14.848 129.23
2 42 Kyle Larson Credit One Bank Chevrolet 14.874 129.004
3 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Toyota 14.875 128.995
4 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 14.896 128.813
5 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 14.901 128.77
6 9 Chase Elliott Hooters Spirits Chevrolet 14.923 128.58
7 95 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota Express Maintenance Toyota 14.937 128.46
8 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Beer Ford 14.94 128.434
9 20 Erik Jones STANLEY Toyota 14.945 128.391
10 88 Alex Bowman Nationwide Chevrolet 14.963 128.236
11 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 14.976 128.125
12 12 Ryan Blaney Dent Wizard Ford 14.981 128.082
13 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 14.997 127.946
14 6 Ryan Newman Acronis Ford 15.002 127.903
15 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fastenal Ford 15.028 127.682
16 38 David Ragan MDS Ford 15.053 127.47
17 8 Daniel Hemric # Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet 15.084 127.208
18 41 Daniel Suarez Haas Automation Ford 15.088 127.174
19 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Chevrolet 15.116 126.938
20 14 Clint Bowyer Peak Lighting Ford 15.129 126.829
21 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet 15.166 126.52
22 43 Bubba Wallace United States Air Force Chevrolet 15.188 126.337
23 47 Ryan Preece # Kroger Chevrolet 15.192 126.303
24 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Military Chevrolet 15.225 126.03
25 21 Paul Menard Menards/Knauf Ford 15.243 125.881
26 32 Corey LaJoie Incredible Bank Ford 15.273 125.633
27 36 Matt Tifft # Surface Sunscreen Ford 15.275 125.617
28 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 15.311 125.322
29 37 Chris Buescher Bush's Beans Chevrolet 15.314 125.297
30 48 Jimmie Johnson Ally Chevrolet 15.331 125.158
31 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 15.34 125.085
32 0 Landon Cassill(i) Permatex Chevrolet 15.366 124.873
33 51 BJ McLeod(i) Pinnacle Sports and Entertainment Chevrolet 15.468 124.05
34 27 Quin Houff Chevrolet 15.579 123.166
35 53 Josh Bilicki(i) AQRE Chevrolet 15.631 122.756
36 54 JJ Yeley PODS Ford 15.732 121.968
37 77 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 15.733 121.96
38 52 Kyle Weatherman(i) Belmont Classic Cars Chevrolet 15.786 121.551
39 15 Ross Chastain(i) Chantz Auto Group Chevrolet 15.84 121.136

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