Denny Hamlin Wins First-Career Darlington Pole

Denny Hamlin
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Defending Southern 500 winner Denny Hamlin lead the field to the green flag for Sunday's race at after the pole position in Saturday's Cup Series qualifying at Darlington Raceway.

Hamlin beat out Kyle Larson for his first-career Darlington pole and his third of the season – all of them coming in just the last four races.

Hamlin turned in a lap of 28.332 seconds (173.571 mph) in his No. 11 Toyota during the third and final round of Saturday's qualifying session, besting Larson's 173.411 mph run in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

Martin Truex, Jr. qualified third in a Toyota, followed by Chevy driver Alex Bowman. Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate qualified fifth, putting three Toyotas in the top five starting spots.

Hamlin's pole-winning effort was the 29th of his career and his best Darlington start since starting third back in May of 2011.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] "The number one pit stall is obviously very important here. I'm excited about that," said Hamlin. "Really, the team has done a great job with the car all weekend, so pretty optimistic and you know hopeful that we have a good smooth race on Sunday and continue to build some momentum here over the next few weeks."

Hamlin had been the fastest car in Friday's opening practice session but only managed to reach the seventh qualifying spot in Round 1 of Saturday's knockout qualifying. By Round 2, Hamlin had moved up to fourth and quickly moved to the top of the leaderboard once the final round was underway.

Larson, who had led the opening round of qualifying and finished second to Alex Bowman in Round 2, also recorded his career-best Darlington start. His lone top-five finish at the famous 1.366-mile oval came back in 2016.

"I just got a little bit too loose there in the center of (Turns) 1 and 2 and the exit of (Turns) 3 and 4 I felt like which cost me a little bit of time," said Larson. "Felt like we had a better car probably than Denny (Hamlin) did throughout qualifying there. I just got a little bit too loose and messed up a little bit there in (Turns) 1 and 2 and gave up that time.

"Disappointed that we didn't get the pole, but it's good to qualify good here. It's a tough race tomorrow. If we can keep our track position and keep it out of the wall we should have a good shot."

Bowman, making just his third-career Cup Series start at Darlington, surprised even himself with not only his best Darlington start, but his third top-five start of the season.

"We mocked up that in first practice there and we weren't very good. So, Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the guys did a good job getting it a lot better today," said Bowman. "I thought I left a little bit on the table there in the third round, a little disappointed in myself, but better than overdriving it and smacking the fence or whatever.

"Not a terrible qualifying effort obviously being fourth, it's way better than I've ever started here before. We have a really good race car. Just wish I had done a little better job there."

Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and William Byron rounded out the top ten starters.

Among the notable drivers starting deeper in the field include Brad Keselowski in 13th and Kevin Harvick back in 22nd.

Jeffrey Earnhardt spun out during his qualifying run and was not able to record a lap, putting him at the tail of the field for Sunday's race.


Pos # Driver Sponsor/Make Lap Speed
1 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Throwback Toyota 28.332 173.571
2 42 Kyle Larson DC Solar Chevrolet 28.358 173.411
3 78 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota 28.392 173.204
4 88 Alex Bowman LLumar Chevrolet 28.4 173.155
5 18 Kyle Busch Skittles 1998 Retro Toyota 28.415 173.064
6 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 28.453 172.832
7 20 Erik Jones Sport Clips Throwback Toyota 28.506 172.511
8 22 Joey Logano Pennzoil Ford 28.507 172.505
9 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Ford 28.535 172.336
10 24 William Byron
AXALTA Throwback Chevrolet 28.55 172.245
11 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Throwback Chevrolet 28.694 171.381
12 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Helping Hungry Homes Ford 28.922 170.03
13 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Genuine Draft Ford 28.46 172.79
14 21 Paul Menard Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 28.505 172.517
15 6 Matt Kenseth Oscar Mayer Ford 28.512 172.475
16 19 Daniel Suarez ARRIS Toyota 28.523 172.408
17 14 Clint Bowyer Carolina Ford Dealers Ford 28.547 172.263
18 3 Austin Dillon American Ethanol e15 Chevrolet 28.585 172.034
19 37 Chris Buescher Bush's Best Since 1908 Chevrolet 28.621 171.818
20 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Throwback Chevrolet 28.635 171.734
21 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Duracell Ford 28.663 171.566
22 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Beer Throwback Ford 28.667 171.542
23 38 David Ragan Citgard 700 Ford 28.81 170.691
24 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger ClickList Chevrolet 28.83 170.572
25 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. John Deere Ford 28.439 172.917
26 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 28.445 172.881
27 43 Bubba Wallace
STP Chevrolet 28.489 172.614
28 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Chevrolet 28.542 172.293
29 95 Kasey Kahne Dumont JETS Chevrolet 28.585 172.034
30 32 Matt DiBenedetto Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.Net Ford 28.622 171.812
31 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's 50 Years of Big Mac Chevrolet 28.819 170.637
32 52 JJ Yeley Trading View Chevrolet 28.854 170.43
33 15 Ross Chastain Chevrolet 28.928 169.994
34 72 Corey LaJoie BCT The Blockchain Terminal Chevrolet 29.091 169.042
35 0 Landon Cassill StarCom Fiber Chevrolet 29.33 167.665
36 66 Timmy Hill Toyota 30.018 163.822
37 51 BJ McLeod Jacob Companies Chevrolet 30.038 163.713
38 99 Derrike Cope Bojangles' Chevrolet 30.662 160.381
39 23 Joey Gase Agri-Supply/Sparks Toyota 31.781 154.734
40 96 Jeffrey Earnhardt Xtreme Concepts Toyota 0 0

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